The Sunday News

THE Government recently announced that machetes will be banned in gold mining areas, with those possessing them set to be jailed under a new law being crafted.  

The move by the Government to ban the possession of machetes, follows a spate of violent crimes committed by machete-wielding artisanal miners.

Besides the ban and mandatory jail terms, the Government is considering setting up special courts to ensure such cases are dealt with quickly and effectively. Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi told our sister paper The Herald that stakeholders should join the fight against machete violence.

“As Government, we are extremely disturbed by the illegal activities of artisanal miners who continuously terrorise people using machetes. Our cultural values and ethos are at stake and it is every stakeholder’s mandate to work towards bringing sanity into the country. I call for an intertwined relationship between the ZRP, Judicial Service Commission (JSC), prosecuting authorities, mining authorities and other stakeholders to thwart their criminal activities.”

Zimbabwe Miners Federation secretary for Youth in Mining in Zimbabwe Ms Sophia Takuva spoke against “lazy” youths who use machetes to grab fellow miners’ ore.

“We are losing young hard working citizens through machete afflicted deaths and this must come to an end. If stock theft has not less than nine years, why not also protect human life and a sector which contributes immensely to the growth of the country,” she was quoted as saying by The Herald.

Reports say artisanal miners were killing or injuring each other in turf wars, with the latest incident reported in Inyathi, Matabeleland North last week where one person was killed when 50 artisanal miners clashed over a mining claim.

Apart from leading to injuries and loss of life, what is saddening is that machete wars also disrupt production, as miners engage in running battles. In a Twitter post, the Zimbabwe Republic Police said the violence in Inyathi occurred on Sunday and Monday.

“Fifty artisanal miners armed with machetes and axes went on a rampage, attacking other miners. Two male adults were severely assaulted and they sustained serious injuries. One resultantly died upon admission to Inyathi Hospital. The accused person, who informed other gold panners of his heinous deed, is still at large,” tweeted ZRP.

Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs Minister Cde Richard Moyo blamed a group of artisanal miners called amaShurugwi for terrorising residents in his province. He said amaShurugwi were killing people, raping women and slaughtering residents’ livestock while conducting illegal mining activities.

“Our people are living in fear because of the violent behaviour of the illegal gold miners who come from other districts. The guys who are called amaShurugwi attack locals if they find them panning for gold. They are always carrying axes and machetes. They are so daring that if the gold belt is stretching to people’s homesteads, these criminals violently force them out of their homes so that they can extract the minerals,” said Cde Moyo.

Deputy Chiefs’ Council president, Chief Mtshane Khumalo, whose jurisdiction covers Bubi district said the illegal gold panners were not just making life a hell to communities but their livestock as well.

We believe police have to descend heavily on such violent characters. Anyone found carrying such dangerous weapons should also be made to face the music. The sanctity of human life must be respected all the time. The Ministry of Mines and Mining Development should also step in, with the assistance of the police, and make sure that miners operate in a civil and lawful manner. Surely, the laws of the jungle, where those who survive are the fittest or most violent, cannot be allowed to prevail in a modern society.