By Farai Maguwu – Own Correspondent
MUTARE – 12 ZIMBABWEAN artisanal gold miners could have been murdered by an unnamed Belarus company, which subcontracted a Chinese company, Zhondin Investments, at Premier Estate outside Mutare.
Only 2 bodies have been recovered and no rescue efforts are underway to recover the 10 missing artisanal miners.
Authorities first cooked up a story of mine collapse. The truth of the matter is NO mine collapsed. Foreign criminals were given a political license to kill Zimbabweans in their own country…. with impunity. They deliberately filled the shaft entrance with earth, fully aware there were people underground, thereby suffocating the artisanal miners to death. Foreign criminals masquerading as investors, murdered innocent Zimbabweans whose only crime is perhaps being Zimbabwean and poor.
I visited Premier this morning and spoke to a number of artisanal miners who confirmed that indeed 13 artisanal miners went underground but one immediately went out having realized his torch batteries had no power.
When he returned to the shaft he saw dozers filling the entrance and he immediately notified them of the presence of 12 artisanal miners underground. No one listened. Instead he was heavily assaulted by Police. He notified other artisanal miners and as concern grew over the safety of the trapped miners, a half hearted rescue operation was carried out resulting in the retrieval of 2 bodies.
I saw clothes on the surface believed to belong to the now-presumed dead artisanal miners. Some artisanal miners claimed their colleagues have cell phones of the 10 missing artisanal miners, which is evidence they never returned to the surface.
Most artisanal miners leave cell phones with friends on the surface and they wear torn clothes underground.
The company spokes said one of the two recovered bodies was already decomposing. He then tried to convince us the guy could have died several days earlier due to shaft collapse which might have happened before the excavators covered the shaft entrance.
Lets assume its true, so how do we explain the other body which was not decomposing? Was this other deceased guy staying with a dead body underground? For what purpose?
Because of criminalization of artisanal mining, there is no collaboration between government and artisanal miners in identifying those who are missing. Rescue operations have been suspended.
Their families might never know what happened to their loved ones as government efforts seem to be at concealing evidence instead of unearthing the truth. Artisanal miners do not use their real names.
This means their identity can only be known through close collaboration with the survivor who has since fled the scene after Police assaulted him. Alternatively government need to find a way to gather artisanal miners in the area. But first they need to convince them they won’t be arrested. This will be a mammoth task.
In another bizarre claim, we were told by the Public Relations Official of JZ Investments that the Belarus company which was originally brought in to do riverbed mining is now reclaiming the land to venture into farming following government directive to ban riverbed mining!
Are they still using their mining title, if at all they have one, or have they acquired a farming lease under A2? Ok, lets assume they want to venture into farming, do they have the relevant farming skills? If its a real mining company, how can they suddenly change their trade from mining to something completely different?
I saw armed ZRPolice officers at the site. Is this a government project which must be given State security? Why must ZRP protect a private enterprise? Don’t they have money to hire private security guards?
What is the purpose of criminalizing artisanal gold mining, kill your own people who are trying to earn an honest living and bring artisanal gold diggers all the way from Belarus to do exactly what you won’t tolerate when done by those who look like you.
We saw deep tunnels and were told the tunnels criss-crossed underground, (something which they hinted affected rescue efforts). Isn’t this enough evidence that our own are well capable and they only need political support to produce on a bigger scale?
Whose country is Zimbabwe?