By James Muonwa
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has admitted top government officials were plundering gold through illegal mining activities.
He warned punitive action will forthwith be taken against such errant senior public servants looting the precious mineral, a development which is retarding economic growth.
Announcing measures to improve gold output in the country during the first 2022 post-Cabinet media briefing held in Harare Tuesday, Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said Mnangagwa was livid his henchmen were involved in illicit gold deals.
Mutsvangwa said: “Government takes great exception to some influential and government officials who are also involved in illegal mining activities. These should desist from such activities forthwith. Government would take stern action against all those involved.”
In a desperate bid to ramp up production in the gold sector, Cabinet approved proposed measures to improve the effective operation of Gold Service Centres, which were tabled by Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube.
The gold hubs are meant to streamline and support the operations of artisanal gold miners through ensuring they operate legally and in safe environments.
“The Gold Centres provide machinery and transport to the miners, while the artisanal miners on the other hand, are expected to provide sufficient feed stock to the centres. The artisanal miners are also expected to benefit through higher returns from the processing of the feed ore they supply to the centres,” said Mutsvangwa.
She however lamented illegal artisanal mining activities were causing loss of human lives, land degradation, loss of potential revenue to Treasury, and hence the need to safeguard the country’s finite resources through curtailing unlawful mining operations.
Gold Service Centres are located at Bubi in Matabeleland North province; Mt Darwin and Shamva in Mashonaland Central province; Silobela in Midlands province; and Odzi in Manicaland province.
Similar units, Mutsvangwa added, are being established in other volatile environments with large numbers of illegal gold miners.
Cabinet resolved that the Mines and Minerals (Amendment) Bill be finalised as a matter of urgency and that formalisation of all mining operations be expedited to enhance accountability and ease of monitoring by environmental management authorities.
It was also agreed to heighten law enforcement measures such as “Operation Chikorokoza Ngachipere/Isitsheketsa Kasiphele/No To Machete-wielding Gangs” known to be behind gold looting.