- October 21, 2020
- Posted in LOCAL
Investigations by Parliament into machete gangs that had bedevilled gold mining areas in the country were stalled by the COVID 19 pandemic and lockdowns which restricted the movement of people.
Before COVID 19, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines was about to investigate the machete gangs and their effects on Zimbabwe’s mining sector. In this exclusive question and answer session, Mining Zimbabwe talks to Mines Parliamentary Portfolio Committee chairperson Edmond Mkaratigwa (EM) who is the Shurugwi South MP, to explain the way forward that his committee will take to investigate the machete gangs in mining areas. Below is the interview.
QUESTION: The Mines Committee had said they will do an investigation on machete gangs. What happened?
EM: Indeed you will remember that we initiated the investigation around the Machete-Wielding gangs causing havoc mainly among small-scale miners and throughout the gold dominant areas in the country. I can also refresh your memory in noting that these criminals who were using the same moniker were becoming active even in urban areas in Harare and other parts of the country. The Committee invited the Zimbabwe Republic Police, the Army and other departments of Government to give insight into the menace. With the blessing of the Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda, the Committee braved COVID-19 then and initiated the investigation. It further actually warned the security agents of the potential for a resurgence of these criminal elements as some in the Committee had indicated that these people had gone underground including into neighbouring Mozambique, hiding away from the security crackdown after a number of their deaths in encounters with the joint security operation as was witnessed in Bindura and other areas.
QUESTION: So what exactly stood on the way of the committee to proceed with its investigations on machete gangs in mining areas?
EM: Without much ado, COVID-19 stood in our way as we were not allowed to meet the public then hence our investigation is hung and we are reinstating it on our agenda in the coming session. On a number of aspects relating to the Committee business, we are behind and we are going to be very busy in the coming session, within the new risk challenges and new ways of operating in an environment of COVID 19 where we must follow government policy.
QUESTION: The Second Session of the Ninth Parliament has come to an end; does it mean the issue of machete gangs will no longer be investigated?
EM: We are going to continue with that issue because the Committee has full control of its agenda as the representative of the Whole House. The Committee is very much concerned with that issue and as you remember, there were many theories peddled around these bandits and getting to the bottom of the matter will be good for all progressive, pro-development, peace, and unity loving Zimbabweans. As Parliament and as the Committee, we may need to be more innovative, think more broadly, transformative and adapt to new methods of doing work. I mean that, if tenable, the Committee through Parliament which is its delegator can include subcontracting trusted researchers with support from our partners, who will conduct an in-depth study within terms of references set by the Committee and within tightly set timelines. The researchers can conduct a preliminary study that will put the Committee on a smart footing for the matter to be tackled within its financial, time and other internal and external environmental constraints such as COVID-19, resources, bureaucracy and parliamentary rules and procedures. The contracted researchers can therefore present to the Committee in camera from time to time as the Committee will also act in line with forthcoming evidence and objective evidence. That way, I am sure the Committee will easily get to the bottom of this matter and deal with it more comprehensively.
QUESTION: Are there any proposals made by your Committee to ensure that the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill deals with the machete gangs? If so, what changes do you suggest will work?
EM: Whereas the machete gangs’ negative effects have been predominantly felt in the Mining Industry and particularly by the small scale miners, the insurgence is merely a threat to the national security of Zimbabwe and the region. In that regard, the matter cannot be specifically addressed through the parent Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill but through strengthening its supporting legislation such as the Gold Trade Act in particular. The Committee is therefore almost there with regards to the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill that is targeting enhancement of mining formalisation, expedient boundary disputes resolution and mineral footprints tracing which are key in fighting the Machete gangs criminal behaviours. Broadly though, these are criminals and insurrections hence they should be dealt with heavily as such by the relevant arms of the state to ensure concerted peace and security and avoid opportunist destabilisers in the country. Primary legislation should not target an event that is there today but should be futurist to ensure unnecessary amendments time and again hence such issues can be dealt with through more temporary legislation such as some Statutory Instruments, ministerial directives, government policy positions and programmes targeted at discouraging the behaviour of such malcontents that are bent on inhibiting achievement of the already possible national mining Vision 2023 and Vision 2030.
QUESTION: How have these Machete gangs affected the country’s mining vision?
EM: These criminals have instilled fear among miners and, in particular women in mining – and realistically though that should be qualified with research data. It has led to overall formal mineral output delivery reduction. Remember the criminals would not use formal channels to a greater extent when selling their gold. They leak it through to foreign lands. In addition to the fear created among vulnerable groups in mining, the criminals disturb the mining process as the mining areas become more war zones hence production time is lost through prioritisation of personal security on the part of the miners. Despite these facts, it has also been sending a wrong signal to would-be investors hence the need for the country to be seen to be able to protect private property of miners in the manner of the gold or any other minerals which calls for a declaration of war against them. However with COVID-19, the effects were reduced as security was also deployed throughout the country inhibiting their chances for resurgence and with concerted efforts, I believe the overall fulfilment of the vision will be achieved although with some little negative effects as a result of these criminal groups.