Nkayi villagers in Matabeleland North Province living on the shores of Shangani Dam are crying foul after hordes of gold panners invaded their area in search of gold.
Gold planners from other parts of the country are said to have descended on the area after significant gold deposits were allegedly discovered soon after the Government imposed a national lockdown to slow down the spread of Covid-19 in March last year.
Large numbers of people have been trekking to the area, much to the chagrin of the local community, which fears that their water sources are already polluted with dangerous chemicals such as mercury.
For Mrs Sibonile Ndlovu (57), a widow from Nkuba Village under Chief Tshugulu, their presence is disrupting their way of life.
“They came last year during the Covid-19 lockdown and they just don’t care about what people are going to survive on when they leave. We rely on this Shangani River for our irrigation projects to feed our children while it is also our source of water to drink, but ever since they descended, we have been forced to drink contaminated water and even our irrigation produce has reduced.”
Mrs Ndlovu’s neighbour, Mr Nkosiyabo Donga said different groups of gold panners had marked their territories in the area, leading to conflicts.
“They don’t allow people to fetch water or send their livestock to drink where they mine from. The challenge we face is that we hear that drinking water that has mercury or other substances they use to mine gold is dangerous and we think that is evident because we used to fish at some certain points of the river during grazing and since last year, all those fisheries can be hardly found.”
Other affected villagers are from Mkhalandoda, Mawuwini, Mathetshaneni and Sibuyu. The area’s kraal head, Mr Misomi Gwebu said villagers now opt for dam water and boreholes, although during the summer period they tend to dry up. He said they were avoiding getting water from the Shangani River where gold panners were based. — The Citizen Bulletin.