There were violent clashes between Penhalonga residents and scores of artisanal miners working under Prime Royal Africa on Friday the 1st of October.
Tension had been brewing ever since PRA entered into a seven-year lease agreement with Redwing Mine which permitted the former to carry out alluvial mining in Tsvingwe and Penhalonga.
PRA brought hundreds of artisanal miners from all over the country who operate through a complex system that includes various ‘sponsors’ majority of whom are politicians and politically connected business people. Some members of the security sector also joined the gold rush and reportedly sponsor syndicates in the area.
Locals complained that their fields are being dug up and rendered unusable. Pits were also being dug alongside the roads, less than the 450 meters stipulated in the Mines and Minerals Act.
The entire Penhalonga area has become an ecological disaster as law enforcement agents also joined the gold rush. Access to the pits is granted only to those politically connected and yet the impacts are felt by the community. Authorizing unregulated surface mining in a residential area was always going to lead to conflict.
Things came to a head last week when the community mobilized and confronted the hundreds of artisanal miners in the area, demanding that they leave Penhalonga with immediate effect. Residents accused artisanal gold miners of contributing to an increase in violence and crime in the Penhalonga.
They also accused them of committing environmental crimes and moral decadence in the community. Two people were injured and property yet to be valuated was damaged during the clash. The feuding parties were quelled by the Zimbabwe Republic Police officers who used tear gas and fired warned shots to contain the situation before apprehending 22 locals. Some of the arrested were picked from their homes.
Of the arrested, fifteen were released without any charge in the morning of Saturday, October the 2nd while the other seven were taken to Mutare Magistrates Court.
Among the seven, two were charged with inciting public violence while the other five were accused of involvement in public violence. The seven were summoned to appear in court on the 21st of October 2021.
CNRG is concerned with the rise in tensions and conflicts over control and access to mineral resources. These conflicts are increasingly taking tribal, regional and political tones. The involvement of politicians in illicit mining activities is a ticking time bomb that can escalate into deadly clashes which can threaten peace and stability in Zimbabwe.
CNRG calls on the government to:
- Stop all the artisanal gold mining activities at Redwing Mine and commission a thorough investigation into the underlying causes of the recent clashes.
- Investigate how PRA acquired mining rights for artisanal mining in Penhalonga
- Attend to the environmental hazards created by PRA in Penhalonga. Government must demand that PRA rehabilitates the land it has destroyed to enable locals to continue with their normal way of life.
- Ensure that the interests and concerns of local communities are listened to when making mining decisions.
- Depoliticize mining and ensure the sector is regulated according to the laws of Zimbabwe and international best practices. Source – www.cnrgzim.org