THE recent swallowing of a classroom by a sinkhole caused by illegal gold mining in Kwekwe underlines the dangerous lawlessness spawned by restive vigilante groups backed by top Zanu PF officials led by former State Security minister Owen “Mudha” Ncube.
The lawlessness has moved from the cold-blooded murder of civilians like Citizens’ Coalition of Zimbabwe supporter Mboneni Ncube, wanton destruction of infrastructure and now to the threat to children’s lives as shown by the predicament of pupils who were injured during the collapse of Globe and Phoenx Primary School.
The school is located about a kilometre from the Kwekwe central business district (CBD).
Illegal miners have been digging under the school where there are underground tunnels left behind by the Germans who once worked at the now disused Globe and Phoenix Mine.
In December last year, Globe and Phoenix Primary School decommissioned two classroom blocks over fears they would collapse because of illegal gold mining activities that have been occurring beneath the school.
Some of the tunnels that the illegal miners are working in to extract gold run underneath the Kwekwe CBD. Warnings have been issued in the past that the city faces the risk of caving as happened at Globe and Phoenix Primary School.
Police, the Mines ministry and the city council are powerless in curbing the illegal miners who enjoy the backing of top Zanu PF officials.
A gangster group called Al-Shabaab has since coalesced around Ncube and is largely responsible for the lawlessness.
Settlement Chikwinya, the opposition CCC MP for Mbizo constituency, reiterated that at Globe and Phoenix Mine there is a cartel involved in underworld operations. He said Ncube is the biggest beneficiary of the plunder together with former Kwekwe deputy mayor John Mapurazi.
Chikwinya also revealed how the underworld operations are taking place at the mine.
“While members of the ZRP [Zimbabwe Republic Police] were stationed there [Globe and Phoenix Primary School] beginning yesterday to guard the area, it is the same ZRP guys that allow illegal miners to access the place for mining activities and, in turn, get some entrance fees. In a year of two, the whole school area will be dug up,” Chikwinya said.
“More is still with us going into the elections; we have just opened up another ‘Gaika’ of 2018.
“Ruling party politicians will take direct charge of illegal mining activities, arranging youths into syndicates of about 20 per group and in turn all ore that comes out of the illegal mining is milled at Owen Ncube, and Mapurazi’s mills that are near Globe and Phoenix.
“In turn, Owen Ncube and Mapurazi buy the gold at a song and then re-process the sands. Reprocessing the sands is the real deal as one gets more than one-and-a-half times what the primary process produced.”
He said illegal small artisanal miners are operating with impunity at Globe and Phoenix because they enjoy the backing of senior Zanu PF politicians.
“The law enforcement authorities are subordinate to the ruling party officials, hence the miners act at will,” he said.
Prominent Kwekwe-based human rights activist Emmanuel Nkosilathi Moyo also decried the role of Zanu PF in sponsoring the lawlessness in the city, particularly the collapse of the classroom block at Globe and Phoenix School.
“The artisanal mining that has caused the collapse of the classroom block is being done by people with political muscle, Zanu PF top chefs to be frank,” he said.
Moyo said several warnings have been issued, but nothing has happened to the culprits.
“Environmental warnings have been given before, but the mining continues because the culprits have political protection,” he said.
“So, the classroom block collapsed in the morning while children were in class and several were injured and rushed to the hospital.
“I recommend that the school close with immediate effect and relocate elsewhere. Those doing the mining there must be held responsible and the law must take its course to protect the lives of the little ones.”
Midlands provincial police spokesperson Assistant Inspector Emmanuel Mahoko referred questions to national police spokesperson Commissioner Paul Nyathi.
When contacted for comment and asked why police are not cracking down on the illegal miners who are camped at Globe and Phoenix Mine, Nyathi said he needed to first make consultations.
“I will need to first speak to the Officer Commanding Midlands so that I can get to know the situation that is prevailing there. As far as I am concerned, there are no challenges that have been brought to us regarding lack of capacity of the police there to arrest the illegal miners,” he said.
In 2008, another gold rush was experienced at Gaika Mine in Kwekwe and similar illegal activities took place there with the backing of top Zanu PF officials.