Insiza farmers lose cattle to open mine pits
Farmers in Matabeleland South’s Lancaster area, near Insiza Dam in Fort Rixon, have reported massive cattle losses as a result of open pits left by artisanal miners.
Farmers claim that artisanal miners have been flooding a nearby mine, Claremont, where they dig at several locations and leave the pits exposed, endangering their cattle.
Some of the farmers spoke to CITE and expressed concern over the ongoing loss of animals, pleading with relevant authorities to act.
Chairperson of the Lancaster Farmers Union, Anele Moyo, stated that their area has 52 plot owners, the majority of whom keep cattle ranging from five to almost 200, of which a countless number have fallen into the uncovered pits.
“This is a huge loss to the farmers. We have about 52 plot holders in our area and all these people are affected. The greatest challenge is that it is within the vicinity of Claremont mine which is mostly flooded by artisanal miners. Most of these miners are not registered hence there is not much regulation on their activities because they are not conducting legal operations,” Moyo narrated.
“The panners have become a menace to the area. They leave their pits uncovered and or livestock fall inside. We have lost quite a number. The miners’ population keeps increasing and this is having a negative bearing on us. Some of them have turned into thieves. They cut our perimeter fences and steal our livestock for consumption. Farmers find caucuses of their livestock after lengthy periods of searching.”
Moyo said their association is seeking the intervention of legislators, regulatory authorities and state security in fighting this conflict.
“We are going to hold a meeting in a fortnight, and we plan on inviting the MP to engage the artisanal miners on our behalf. We also want to talk to the police and to the Environmental Management Authority (EMA). When we make police reports on most occasions, they fail to come citing lack of resources. They tell us they do not have transport. These miners take advantage of the late response of the police,” Moyo said.
A farmer in the area, Mrs Vuma, said one of her cows was slaughtered and found its hooves and part of the meat where the panners were camped.
“I had been searching for my cow for some days. The herd boys found its remains at a place where the miners were camped. The fire was not even out yet, the hooves and part of the meat were still there. They left behind the plates they had eaten in. They had braaid the meat,” said the farmer.
“I’m in so much pain because of the conduct of these miners. Are they taking advantage of me because I am an elderly woman? They walk through my farm when they go to the mine. That is where their shortcut is. Now even my herd boys no longer feel safe. I called the police, but they told me they do not have transport to get here. I cannot go to Fort Rixon to collect them and return them, it is an expense I cannot bear right now.”
Another farmer, Ndumiso Mpofu, stated this matter must be addressed immediately because many farmers had been affected.
He stated that while he has not been directly affected, colleagues in his proximity had been badly affected, and was scared that if the issue is not rectified, he would become a victim as well.
“A friend of mine with a plot not far from mine lost a pedigree that was pregnant. Its value was around US$2 000. Such a loss is not an easy one for a farmer. He has lost at least about three other cattle since the beginning of the year. No one will compensate for his loss, it is quite heartbreaking. When the miners are done they blow their money in bottle stores while farmers remain trying to deal with their losses,” Mpofu said.
“We have tried to engage relevant authorities, they just promise that something will be done but nothing changes. We are constantly reminded that mining supersedes farming, but beef is also an export product, and it feeds the nation. If this is not rectified, we will only be shooting ourselves in the foot by giving precedence to one sector over the other. EMA always says miners should fence their operational areas but honestly here no one is following up. We need to be assisted in this matter.”