POLICE have beefed up security in “machete warzones” to end bloodshed among artisanal miners and to reduce other criminal activities.
Several people have died this year in bloody fights between rival gangs of artisanal miners in Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland West, Manicaland and Midlands provinces.
Police said enough officers have been deployed to the hotspots to intensify foot and mobile patrols.
Cases of murder, rape, assault, housebreaking and stock theft are also prevalent in mining communities.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said both uniformed officers and those in plain clothes were on the ground.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi yesterday confirmed the launch of an operation to curb the criminal activities.
“Police in all the provinces are conducting the ongoing operations to ensure there is sanity, law and order at various mining sites.
“We are also working with various stakeholders like the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development during these operations,” he said.
Asst Comm Nyathi said preliminary investigations showed that the criminals involved were coming from various places countrywide to rob genuine miners and some illegal panners of gold ore, goods, cash and foodstuffs.
Criminal activities by the marauding gangs of artisanal miners turned-machete attackers have surged countrywide, with reported cases of murder, rape, assault, housebreaking and stock theft leaving many communities in perpetual fear of attacks.
Police recently started raids on illegal mining sites in all provinces and have recovered an array of weapons and equipment used mainly for gold panning.
Police statistics show that in the mineral-rich Midlands Province, reported criminal cases rose 33 percent in the first nine months of 2019 because of the influx of machete attackers.
In Bindura, at least 157 people were arrested for conducting illegal mining activities in the past two weeks, with police seizing generators and weapons such as machetes used by panners in robberies.
In Midlands Province, 3 709 cases were reported between January and September 2019, compared to 2 789 recorded during the corresponding period last year.
This marked increase in crime follows reports that other provinces, including Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland West and Manicaland have also been invaded by large numbers of machete attackers.
Mazowe and Bindura in Mashonaland Central and Penhalonga in Manicaland are among the gold-rich areas worst affected by the fortune-seeking gangs which do not hesitate to use violence to satisfy their greediness.