By Tonderai Saharo
MASVINGO: Residents here have given the city council a seven-day ultimatum to deal with a group of suspected Zanu PF-aligned gold panners who are mining the precious mineral under the city’s main water reservoirs.
The storage tanks have a capacity to hold more than 10 million litres of treated water a day for use in Masvingo’s 10 council wards.
Residents under a local residents’ pressure group, the Masvingo United Residents and Ratepayers Alliance (MURRA) have engaged lawyers in order to force the local authority to act on the gold panners and stop their illegal activities.
Through their lawyers, the residents said if the illegal gold miners are not stopped the water reservoir tanks may end up bursting, and putting the lives of over 200 000 residents at risk of a serious water crisis.
“The illegal gold panners are involved in haphazard digging and are also using dangerous chemicals such as cyanide, mercury, and explosives in their illegal mining activities,” the petition reads.
“The use of dangerous chemicals is risky in that it is only a matter of time before it contaminates the water for domestic use by Masvingo residents exposing residents to a myriad of diseases which will culminate in a catastrophe.”
The residents said failure by the authorities to address the issue within the seven days, they will be left with no option but approach the courts for relief and also engage in demonstrations until the council acts on their demands.
“Agitated residents may end up staging demonstrations out of frustration if the council does not come up with a clear policy to curb the rampant illegal mining activities,” the residents’ petition reads.
Contacted for comment, the chairperson of the public works and planning committee Councillor Tarusenga Vhembo said the illegal miners were Zanu PF-sponsored youths.
“We have over the past months raised concerns over the illegal activities at the water tanks and each time we dispatched our municipal police with the help of police details to stop the activities, our efforts yielded nothing as these miners have backing from powerful senior politicians in Zanu PF,” he said.
Efforts to get a comment from the local Zanu PF officials were unsuccessful.