SEVENTY-SEVEN illegal miners have been sentenced to two years each by a circuit court in Shamva for illegal mining, while 112 got 50 days each on charges of criminal trespass.
The court remanded another 66 in custody pending trial, and fined two for illegal possession of mbanje, one $80 (or 30 days) and one $500 (or five months).
Police are continuing to intensify operations against illegal gold miners in Masholanand Central Province, with the total arrested now at 1 645, and have warned that anyone entering Jumbo Mine in Mazowe, a major centre of criminal activity, illegally faces arrest.
Besides the 1 645 arrested, 69 were nabbed over the weekend and more than 1 000 illegal structures were demolished in the Mazowe area and nearby farmers have been warned against harbouring criminal elements on their land.
Police launched the operation with a view to restoring law and order in mining communities following wars between gangs armed with machetes.
Jumbo Mine has been a centre for illegal mining and gang wars and is a major target of the police operation.
The closure of the mine by Metallon Gold in 2018 resulted in an influx of artisanal miners from across the length and breadth of the country, with vendors adding to the confusion as they were attracted by US dollars held by the illegal miners.
In a statement yesterday, national police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said anyone found operating illegally in the area will be arrested.
“Police operations at Jumbo Mine and other areas in Mazowe have so far been successful,” he said.
“Today (yesterday), a high-level team of senior officers also visited some of the areas in Mazowe to assess progress.
“However, we want to advise members of the public that Jumbo Mine is now a no-go area with immediate effect, particularly for those who have been engaging in illegal mining activities and other nefarious activities.”
Asst Comm Nyathi said investigations have revealed that some farmers living near Jumbo Mine have been harbouring illegal panners, including those on the police wanted list.
“We have gathered intelligence that some nearby farmers are sheltering illegal miners,” he said.
“We want to advise and warn them that the long arm of the law will catch up with them. We will arrest anyone involved in such activities without fear or favour because they are harbouring people who are wanted by the police.”
Meanwhile, an armed man, believed to be part of a machete-wielding gang that terrorised Chinhoyi residents, was killed while resisting arrest by members of the public.
Three others were arrested by police, with one in hospital after being shot and injured by the police. The four are suspected to belong to a gang that recently went on the rampage, robbing a shop, setting five huts on fire and assaulting villagers while wielding machetes and a spear.
The suspects, arrested on Saturday are: Takesure Mashonga Gasura, George Ncube and Pritchard Banda.
“Banda is currently hospitalised after being shot on the knee while resisting arrest,” said Asst Insp Nyathi.
“Another suspect, Edmore Kaitano, was apprehended and fatally assaulted by members of the public. He later died on the way to Sanyati Baptist Hospital.
“The Zimbabwe Republic Police would like to warn machete gangs that they only have themselves to blame should they continue to harass and terrorise innocent members of the public. Police would like to assure the public that we are firm on the ground to deal with all criminal elements.”
In a related story, two men who were part of a 15-man gang armed with machetes, axes and logs have been arrested for allegedly raiding and stealing gold ore at a mine in Collen Bawn.
Mqhelisi Moyo (26) and Edmore Zulu (32), both from Spitzop medium-density suburb were not asked to plead when they appeared before Gwanda magistrate Mrs Nomagugu Sibanda, facing robbery charges. They were remanded in custody to January 26 for trial.
Prosecuting, Miss Glenda Nare said Moyo and Zulu, who were in the company of 13 others who are still at large, invaded Poly 4 Mine which belongs to Ms Grace Dube on December 4 at around 2am.
They allegedly stole 60x50kg bags of gold ore, a car battery and two cellphones, all valued at US$1 110.
“On 4 December at around 2am, the two accused persons in the company of 13 others who are still at large drove to Poly 4 Mine in Collen Bawn in two vehicles armed with machetes, logs and axes.
“They found mine workers asleep in the open, while others were asleep inside some makeshift tents. The gang began to assault the mine workers using machetes and logs, and the workers fled in different directions,’’ she said.
Miss Nare said the accused persons then loaded x50kg bags of gold ore into the two vehicles and also took a car battery and two cellphones before they fled the scene.
She said the matter was reported to the police, who conducted investigations that led to Moyo’s arrest.
Miss Nare said Moyo was arrested after he was identified by one of the workers as the driver of one of the two vehicles that were used in the raid.
She said Moyo then implicated Zulu, leading to his arrest. She said the stolen property is worth US$1 101 and nothing was recovered.
Machete gangs have been terrorising people in gold-rich towns like Gwanda, Kwekwe, Kadoma, Bindura and Chegutu, where they are killing and sexually abusing gold miners and residents.