By Mashonaland East Correspondent
ARTISANAL miners in the gold-rich Makaha area in Mudzi, Mashonaland East province are being forced to smuggle the precious mineral into neighbouring Mozambique as police are frustrating their operations through unnecessary arrests and demanding bribes.
Over 5 000 artisanal miners have descended onto Makaha area to pan for gold.
However, most of the mined stone is being smuggled into Mozambique despite the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe owned Fidelity Printers and Refiners (FPR), which buys, refine and exports the gold, setting up an office in the area to buy the mineral.
Mudzi South MP, Jonathan Samkange blamed the non-remittance of gold by the miners to FPR to continuous running battles between the police and the artisanal miners.
“The running battles between the people and the police are not good for development, which is why we need to find a lasting solution,” Samkange said.
The MP was addressing Mashonaland East Resident Minister Apollonia Munzwerengwi and Deputy Mines Minister Polite Kambamura who were in Makaha to assess how gold leakages in the area can be curbed.
The artisanal miners informed the ministers how they were forced to cross into Mozambique as Mudzi-based police officers constantly arrested them, demanded bribes or a share from proceeds of gold sold through FPR as protection fees.
“The police always arrest us if we don’t pay them bribes after selling our gold to Fidelity and avoid them.
“We end up crossing into Mozambique where we also fetch better prices than what is offered by Fidelity,” one miner said.
Munzwerengwi and Kambamura pleaded with the artisanal miners to sell their gold to FPR saying this would bring development to Mudzi district and the province.
“We consider Makaha as our biggest contributor to the province’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) under devolution.
“So we want to normalise your operations and that you are able to sell gold to Fidelity Printers and Refiners,” the resident minister said.
Kambamura told the artisanal miners to stop gold leakages and sell their product to FPR.
“As the government, we appreciate the role that miners play in the country’s development, so we urge you to be licenced by our ministry,” he added.
A large number of the artisanal miners in Makaha, are villagers from surrounding areas who have dumped agriculture due to poor rains and soils in the area.