ZANU PF officials in Manicaland have devised a plan to rope in smallscale gold miners and their workers in a dirty 2018 elections campaign that will see the party supporting them in the plunder of the vast Redwing gold mine in Penhalonga in return for votes.
Investigations by The NewsHawks revealed that the plan was sold to smallscale miners by Zanu PF Mutasa district coordinating committee (DCC) secretary for security Timire Timire.
Timire announced that he had been sent to convey the plan by top ruling party politician and Deputy Senate President Retired-General Michael Nyambuya whom he said had blessings from above. Timire addressed the small-scale miners at about 2pm on 1 October at Kasha Mine in Penhalonga’s Ward 21 and made the lengthy speech, obtained as an audio recording by The NewsHawks.
In his opening remarks during the closed-door meeting, Timire explained to the small-scale mine owners that Redwing Mine, which used to be under the control of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ally Pedzisayi “Scott” Sakupwanya, had been returned to its original owners, Metallon Gold led by South African tycoon Mzi Khumalo through a recent Supreme Court ruling.
He bemoaned the development and said a foreigner could not be allowed to mop up gold at the mine and go with it to the United Kingdom with locals watching on helplessly.
“That is not my main issue, but I am just saying this so that I open your minds. What I have been sent to tell you (by Nyambuya) is how we now want to work going forward. As Zanu PF we want to win this rural constituency of Mutasa South,” Timire said.
“So, the plan is that as small-scale mine owners, you must produce to us registers of all your workers indicating those with identity documents (IDs) and where they will vote. At this stage I will not say how they will be made to vote for Zanu PF. A different team will do that. But my task as a security leader of the party is to make sure that we have all names of your workers and indications on whether they are registered to vote and, if so, their actual polling stations.” He urged the small-scale miners whose workers have no IDs and who have not registered to speedily approach party offices to regularise their papers.
“If your mine has people, say from Bulawayo or Gweru, who will vote in those areas, tell them that there are mines in Bulawayo and Gweru and they must go and work there. We want only our sons and daughters from here in Mutasa to work in your mines because they are the ones who vote in this area. How can you say having harvested honey here you want to board a bus and go to vote elsewhere? That is not the doctrine of Zanu PF,” said Timire.
At this point a small-scale miner rose and posed a question as to how the mines could be expected to recruit workers only from Manicaland when some of them are unwilling to go into mining work or lack the skills. In response, Timire said in such a case the workers from out of Mutasa district were supposed to transfer their voting stations from other areas into the district.
He threatened to close the small-scale mines whose owners will refuse to cooperate with Zanu PF. Timire however dangled a “carrot” for the small-scale miners.
“What we are also saying as Zanu PF is that you are not producing enough gold and we want to help you. At the moment you are playing. You see that mine, Redwing. You must go and steal gold ore there. We will protect you. No one will arrest you. Do you know the biggest thief of gold ores called Madhanzi? He is now a big guy and he rose through stealing gold ore but he was protected by Zanu PF,” he said.
Madhanzi is a pseudonym of a popular gold baron in Penhalonga whose real name is not known in the community. He flaunts wealth and moves around in sleek cars. Madhanzi owns unregulated gold cyanidation sites in Penhalonga which process ore from Redwing Mine.
Gold cyanidation is a hydrometallurgical technique for extracting gold from low-grade ore by converting the gold to a water-soluble coordination complex.
Timire heaped praises on Madhanzi in his address to the miners while urging them to take a leaf from his unorthodox operations.
“No police officer can arrest him or touch him. He is now so powerful that he is now eyeing a parliamentary post under Zanu PF. At one time there was a meeting and he sat next to (Vice-President) Chiwenga. That is how powerful he has become through protection by Zanu PF. If we work together in this you will also be protected, so I am saying go and steal the gold ore and nothing will happen to you. We want to see Zanu PF councillors coming from some of you,” said Timire while addressing the small-scale miners.
He said Nyambuya was aware of the plan and he was the one who sent him to say what he was telling the miners. Nyambuya is a former army general. He served as governor of Manicaland before being appointed minister of Energy and Power Development in midApril 2005, following the March 2005 parliamentary election.
He was however placed on the United States sanctions list in 2005. He was nominated Zanu PF’s candidate for the National Assembly seat in Mutasa North, a constituency in Manicaland, in the March 2008 parliamentary election but lost to David Chimhini who at the time represented the MDC-T led by the late Morgan Tsvangirai.
Contacted for comment, Nyambuya expressed ignorance over the meeting in Penhalonga and said whoever told the miners that he had been sent by him was name dropping.
“I know nothing about that meeting. Someone is just using my name,” he said. Timire confirmed to The NewsHawks that he addressed the miners, but said he did not urge miners to steal gold ore from Redwing in return for Zanu PF protection.
“That event you are talking about was a full DCC meeting and in that section of Mutasa district I am the most senior Zanu PF official there. It is not true that I urged the miners to steal gold ore at Redwing or promised them any protection from the law. It is not true at all. These must be words from people who want to destabilise our party,” he said, adding.
“What we discussed was in line with voter registration in which we urged the small-scale miners to register their workers so that they can vote for Zanu PF next year. That is already in line with our party’s voter mobiliation drive.
“As for Redwing, what I said is that the mine should register all the artisanal miners working there so that they vote and ensure that those who were in the past voting elsewhere transfer their names to Mutasa district polling stations. Next weekend we are actually going there to the mine to bolster this position,” he said. Asked to comment on the statements he made that he had been sent by Gen Nyambuya, Timire said: “Those top leaders simply give us guidelines on what we must do on the ground and so, yes, General is one of the top leaders who gave us direction on how we could go about in our voter mobilisation exercise,” he said.
Timire also exonerated Madhanzi, saying he does not steal gold ore. Former Mutasa South MP Regai Tsunga, who lost the 26 March by-election on a Citizens’ Coalition for Change ticket, said he was aware of the Zanu PF meeting with small-scale miners and what was discussed last Saturday. “The extent of plunder of natural resources in Penhalonga and elsewhere in the country with the tacit approval of the authorities has reached alarming proportions,” he said.
“Instilling fear as well as the coercion of and threats to small-scale miners, artisanal miners and illegal miners is a clear infringement on their rights and freedoms as enshrined in our constitution.
“Of course, the people cannot be fooled anymore and will vote overwhelmingly for change in elections scheduled for next year,” he said.
In the past, civil society organisations (CSOs) have also advocated for a stop to the weaponisation of gold at Redwing Mine, saying the country is losing millions of dollars due to such opaque operations that were fuelling smuggling of the precious metal.
The CSOs also highlighted that the plunder of gold at Redwing was not benefitting over 2 955 households with an estimated population of 6 000 residents in Penhalonga, Mahwemasimike and Tsvingwe areas directly affected by surface mining operations by the illegal miners who enjoy Zanu PF protection.