HORDES of villagers and gold panners were injured when omakorokoza from various parts of the country went on a rampage at a gold mine along the Gwayi River, Nyamandlovu in Matabeleland North Province.
The vicious omakorokoza who are often prepared to kill or maim rivals to scare away competition at mining claims, clashed with villagers from Tsholotsho and Nyamandlovu at Lewisham 2 Mine in Ward 14 in Umguza District.
The area which is just after St James High School has many mining claims but most people are mining unprocedurally.
Gold panners commonly known as omakorokoza are all over the area where they are leaving deep uncovered pits.
The environment is littered with plastic soft drinks and beer empties as well as human waste.
When Chronicle visited the area on Monday afternoon, omakorokoza were digging in search of gold.
A villager Mr Charles Mudenda, recounted how the omakorokoza went haywire last week, attacking more than 300 people.
He had several long stitches on his head after being attended to at Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo. “They moved from place to place indiscriminately attacking anyone. They were about a group of 20 but I was attacked by four young boys. I was helpless as I could not fight four armed youths who were merciless. They axed me several times on my head and they only left me when my face was covered in blood. I am still experiencing body pains,” he said.
Mr Mudenda said he was attended to at Mpilo Central Hospital after being transferred from Nyamandlovu District hospital. He said he reported the matter at Nyamandlovu Police Station but villagers feel some police officers could have been bribed to turn a blind eye.
Mr Mudenda said the hospital did not do an X-ray to ascertain the degree of his head injuries and he was living in fear as he is still bed ridden.
“This is not the first time this is happening. Every time when we are lucky to get some gold, news spreads and the next thing we will be forced out and beaten by miners coming from other places. Soon some people will be killed here ,” he said.
Mr Mudenda said the omakorokoza took all the ore from the people for processing leaving them without anything. He said even those who were down the shafts were ordered out and received their share of thorough beatings.
“I heard that they had three cars which they used to load all our ore and they left. But soon after, an excavator came to mine at the area. So it is difficult to know if they were sent to clear us out so that the big fish could move in,” he said .
Another villager Ms Sithabile Moyo said her brother, Mr Mehluli Moyo, was also seriously beaten and is receiving treatment in Bulawayo.
“He told us the men started by attacking the women who sell food to the miners and he did not think that he was a target and did not mind running for cover. When they got to him, they hit him with the back of an axe on the head and kicked him. He came home struggling to walk with his clothes bloodied and we had to use the little money we had so that he goes to Bulawayo for medical attention,” she said.
Ms Moyo said the men told them they do not want to see anyone at the mine.
She said other villagers across the river in Dlula village under Tsholotsho District suffered the same fate, although she did not know how many were injured.
Mrs Thethesiwe Moyo (74) said villagers are now living as prisoners in their own area due to the activities of omakorokoza.
She appealed for Government intervention so that communities also benefit from their resources.
“As women we are afraid to go there because of the constant fights,” she said.
Environmental Management Agency provincial manager, Mrs Chipo Mpofu Zuze said:
“We conducted an inspection last month in respect to mining activities taking place at Lewisham 2 Mine in Ward 14, Umguza District. This was in response to a complaint received by the Agency that there were illegal mining activities being conducted along a river. There was a gold rush a week ago where about 300 people from within the locality and some from outside the area invaded an old ‘abandoned’ trench.”
Mrs Mpofu Zuze said they fined the mine owner for mining without an environmental impact assessment certificate. She raised concern over litter such as solid waste from food packaging.
Tsholotsho Rural District Council chairperson councillor Esau Siwela said they have the same problem across the river in Ward 20.
“There are about 12 mines that are operating illegally in our area. They did not seek authority and clearance from us. It is just individuals who are benefitting from this so the chaos is benefitting them. Our communities are crying for help as they are losing out in many ways,” he said.
Cllr Siwela challenged the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development to visit the area and see what is happening on the ground so that they act against people they gave the mining claims.
Matabeleland North Provincial police spokesperson Inspector Glory Bhanda said he was yet to receive a report about the attack. Chronicle