A Midlands top cop and Mines and Mining Development Ministry officials have been accused of fronting the displacement of villagers in Zhombe to pave way for easy access to the gold-rich area.
Investigations by the Centre for Innovation and Technology (CITE) revealed that villagers in Zhombe have been battling attempts to have them evicted from their ancestral lands since 2001, with illegal miners having since encroaching into their homesteads.
Police Officer Commanding Kwekwe District Denford Maingire and the Midlands Provincial Mines Director (PMD) Tariro Ndlovu have been accused of turning a blind eye to the issue with the former being said to be behind attempts to evict villagers.
The Kwekwe police boss has reportedly deployed armed riot police in Zhombe in an attempt to displace villagers from the area with Ndlovu also said to be siding with the miners.
Human rights organisations have launched investigations into the human rights violations in area.
Early this month, the Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa (ACT-SA) and the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum visited the affected areas on a fact finding mission.
Obert Chinhamo, director of the ACT-SA told CITE they were told gory stories of police brutality by the affected villagers.
“There are serious cases of police brutality there. We were told by the villagers that in areas where gold is discovered, small-scale miners with backing of riot police descend on the villagers and indiscriminately beat them up so that they vacate,” he said.
CITE is in possession a letter of complaint addressed to Ndlovu which was copied to police in which ACT-SA raised concerns of corruption and rights’ violations.
The organisation cited a case of the late Cornelias Noah Mafa whose homestead was invaded by small-scale miners.
The letter reads in part: “The complainants are disappointed that the Midlands PMD’s office appears to be on the side of miners who have literally invaded the entire field and homestead of the late Mr Mafa. Making matters worse are allegations that one Tavengana, from the Midlands PMD’s office, who visited the area, started pegging the late Mafa’s homestead and fields.”
The illegal miners took over 2.5 hectares of the land leaving the family with less than one hectare.
In the letter, the organisation accused the police of shielding the miners who invaded Mafu’s homestead in return for gold ore.
“This is also worrying since there were allegations that a truck load of gold ore was carried for milling and the proceeds were meant to be given to the police,” reads part of the letter.
Last year, seven villagers whose land was grabbed by a small-scale mining company called King George in Zhombe were charged with trespassing when they tried to access their homesteads.
The villagers, Morgan Moyo, Talent Zigandiwa, Clyde Chadenga, Malvin Chadenga, Eugene Chadenga, Samson Mafa and Jonathan Jonas were later acquitted.
Munyaradzi Bhidi who once worked for ZimRights and now runs a grocery shop in Zhombe, said villagers were so scared to speak out against victimisation.
“The situation is very tense. It’s difficult especially in rural areas for villagers to seem to be fighting police even when the law enforcement agents do harm to them. We have serious cases of police brutality here and action needs to be taken,” he said.
Investigations by this publication revealed that there was a row two months ago between youths of the Zhombe Community Ownership Scheme Gold Mine and their trustees.
In response, police under the instruction of Dispol Maingire descended on the mine and rounded up about 11 youths and later ‘took over the mine under the pretext of ‘maintaining peace.’.
The youths were detained by police for 45 days until the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum intervened.
During this period police maintained their presence at the mine.
Musa Kika, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum director referred CITE to the organisation’s lawyer Desmond Marange who helped the youths get bail on 21 March 2022.
Marange said: “The bail was finally granted but the youths had been detained for 45 days. What is surprising is that the police maintained a presence at a private mine saying they are providing security. It’s unheard of for the ZRP to act as security guards at a private property.”
When asked whether he was aware that the police were getting part of the gold from the mine, Marange said: “That is the information we are getting.”
When contacted for comment, Maingire dismissed the allegations as false.
“I am a law enforcement agent not Mafia,” he said.
The police boss said he was a person of good professional conduct.
“Whoever is feeding you this is stupid. It shows you don’t know me. I’m the opposite of all this hogwash,” he said.
PMD Ndlovu also denied any wrong doing.
On the case of the Mafa family and the King George small scale miner who encroached into the former’s homestead, he said he could not be blamed since it started before he came to the Midlands.
Asked on what then he did after finding the case on his desk, Ndlovu claimed that it was the Mafa family which was wrong because it wanted “permission to over peg an existing mine.”
“The matter was once reported to the Anti-Corruption unit of Southern Africa and I explained the matter and asked them to conduct their own investigation… Disputes of this nature are resolved with reference to the law. Unfortunately when one party loses in a dispute they find solace in muddying the water,” said PMD Ndlovu.
He added: “Problem is (that) mining is not like a sport where a draw is an unacceptable result. A mine can only be owned by one entity and I sometimes appreciate the frustration.”
Asked to comment on reports that he was getting bribed to side with miners, Ndlovu said: “I would not dignify a spurious allegation by commenting on it either…. It’s absolute nonsense,” he said.
Scot Bvudzijena, Mafa family’s spokesperson however said the PMD had unfairly presided over the matter.
“How do you explain supporting miners who encroached into our farm and fenced an area where we had even built our own toilet,” he said.
Bvudzijena said the affected family had since engaged lawyers to take the matter to the courts.