By Ndatenda Njanike
POLICE have arrested 21 illegal gold panners who had invaded the pristine mountains of the Chimanimani National Park in Manicaland province.
The mountains are located along the Zimbabwe/Mozambique border.
Police national spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed the arrests.
He said during the raid, police were also able to recover various blends of liquor and dagga from illegal tuck-shops operating close to the national park.
“21 people were arrested by police in Chimanimani National Park after they illegally entered the park to pan for gold,” said Nyathi.
“Various blends of liquor and dagga were also recovered from illegal tuck-shops near the National Park.”
Hundreds of illegal gold panners invaded Chimanimani National Park last month, on the back of the Covid-19 lockdown and worsening economic conditions. However, their presence threatens a pristine mountain ecosystem that is home to rare wildlife.
The panners have cut down trees, strewn litter, polluted a major river and violated ancient rock art with graffiti.
The popular tourist Chimanimani district is known for having the longest range of mountains in Africa and is home to more than 90 endemic plant species.
Recently, there was an outcry from Chimanimani Tourist Association (CTA) that the panners gold miners in the area were using prohibited lethal chemicals such as mercury in search of the precious mineral resulting in local water sources being contaminated thereby putting the lives of villagers, livestock, and flora and fauna at risk.