- April 26, 2020
- Posted in LOCAL
Hundreds of artisanal miners from many parts of the country are descending on rich gold deposits abandoned by a Chinese company, in Matabeleland South’s Insiza district and Bhinyapi mine near Wanezi Mission.
Zanu-PF Insiza North legislator Farai Taruvinga is accused of hiring hundreds of people to extract gold from the site despite threats posed by coronavirus.
Villagers said the area was now overcrowded with people and feared that coronavirus might easily spread if the situation was not controlled.
A social worker in the area, Sibongile Khumalo, said the discovery of the rich gold deposits at Bhinyapi mining area had attracted a large number of people, some from outside the district.
“There is currently a serious gold rush as people pick grammes of gold at Bhinyapi,” Khumalo said.
“There is, however, no gold war at the place.
“I am told that the artisanal miners have been divided into 10 people per group to conduct their mining activities.
“It appears there has been an agreement that people in mining must work in groups of 10 so as to observe social distancing.”
She said the artisanal miners were staying in tents in a bushy area.
Godlwayo Community Development Trust director Nkululeko Tshuma said it was surprising that at a time people were expected to observe the national lockdown, there was an influx of people from outside Insiza into the area.
“There are roadblocks all over, how do they pass through the roadblocks? Insiza North legislator Taruvinga is part of the district Covid-19 response team and he should be seen to be playing a huge role in enforcing lockdown rules but surprisingly he is at the forefront bending such rules,” Tshuma said.
“He is busy bringing many people to mine.
“At the mine site there is overcrowding. “There is no protective clothing, no social distancing, absolutely nothing, what happens in the event of a Covid-19 outbreak?”
Tshuma said the selective application of the law cannot go unchallenged and called for urgent implementation of devolution of power to ensure that locals benefit from their natural resources.
But Taruvinga, who is also part of the district Covid-19 response team, dismissed the claims that people were flooding the area.
He said only a maximum of 10 people were working on each pegged area.
“Those are lies,” Taruvinga said.
“There are only groups of 10 people working there and people are working in their pegs.
“There is no overcrowding.”
He said mining companies in the area had since responded to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s announcement that 40 000 mineworkers were to be immediately screened and tested for Covid-19.
“Miners are preparing to conduct screening and testing and this will be done as soon as possible,” he said.
Taruvinga said people in the district had adjusted and were observing social distancing and other measures to stop the spread of Covid-19.
However, the MP said there were reports of an influx of people harvesting mopane worms in Gwanda.
Insiza district coordinator Zacharia Jusa declined to comment and referred questions to ministry of Mines officials in Gwanda.
Matabeleland South police spokesperson Chief Inspector Philisani Ndebele said he had not yet received reports of the gold rush and promised to check with law enforcers in the area.