The Chron­i­cle

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News -

BU­L­AWAYO, Fri­day, Septem­ber 6, 1991 — Gold pan­ners, in­spite of con­stant po­lice raids and harsh liv­ing con­di­tions, con­tinue to dig up the Umz­ing­wane River to eke out a mea­gre liv­ing as drought con­tin­ues to bite Mata­bele­land South.

Ac­cord­ing to po­lice at West Ni­chol­son and Colleen Bawn, hun­dreds of gold pan­ners dig the Umz­ing­wane River in search of gold dust which they sell to buy­ers from nearby cities and other cen­tres.

Last week, a gold pan­ner, Cde Oliver Mdeke (24), died when the tun­nel in which he was dig­ging for gold col­lapsed. Po­lice said the in­ci­dent was re­ported af­ter 12 hours as most of the pan­ners feared that they would be ar­rested.

Au­thor­i­ties in Colleen Bawn and West Ni­chol­son ex­pressed fears that the gold pan­ners would soon cause ir­repara­ble dam­age to the en­vi­ron­ment in the area un­less stern mea­sures were taken to curb their op­er­a­tions.

Al­ready some dams down­stream are be­gin­ning to fill up with sand, caus­ing wa­ter short­age prob­lems for farm­ers and other com­mer­cial en­ter­prises in West Ni­chol­son. Early this week po­lice from West Ni­chol­son rounded up more than 35 gold pan­ners at one camp along the Umz­ing­wane River. About nine of the pan­ners were handed over to the Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tions De­part­ment af­ter they were found in pos­ses­sion of gold dust.

The Of­fi­cer Com­mand­ing West Ni­chol­son, In­spec­tor Daniel Kawadza, said gold pan­ning was now a chronic prob­lem in the area. Po­lice records show that gold pan­ning cases in the area dated as far back as 1969.

Insp Kawadza said gold pan­ning would con­tinue as long as un­em­ploy­ment and drought per­sisted in the re­gion. Pan­ners now came from as far afield as Mberengwa, Fi­l­abusi, Kezi and Beit­bridge. Although po­lice car­ried out con­stant raids, they could not ar­rest the sit­u­a­tion, he said.

The pan­ners ad­mit­ted that they were caus­ing great en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age but they pointed out that it was their only source of in­come. They said they were not de­terred by the con­stant po­lice raids.

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