- Gold war victim (top), Mugabe.
Scores of people have been injured while many others have fled their homes in Zvishavane and Mberengwa amid claims of beatings and torture by Zimbabwean army soldiers deployed to end deadly fighting by informal miners over gold mining rights, Now Daily has learnt.
Comment was not immediately available from the defence ministry and the reports could not independently be verified.
However, witnesses said the random army violence was continuing.
“The soldiers came to our village and just started beating up everyone in sight, especially the youths. They accused us of attacking police officers,” claimed one informal miner who fled Mazvihwa village at the weekend and said he was headed for South Africa.
Mines minister Walter Chidhakwa recently said the army was being brought in to restore order after the regular police failed to do it. An unknown number of people have been killed and thousands injured as illegal miners fight for control of gold mines in the Midlands and Matabeleland South. Some have invaded government mines like Sabi, disrupting production.
Deputy minister and MP for the violence-ridden Zvishavane-Runde constituency Fred Moyo told the recent regional Minex conference that a cabinet committee chaired by home affairs minister Ignatius Chombo was looking into the problem which he described as ‘serious’. He said the continued occupation of Sabi mine by ‘poachers’ threatened to drive away investors who reopened the mine recently.
Moyo said the informal miners had recently entered Sabi mine illegally and threw home-made bombs at guards who confronted them, injuring three.
Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe recently started moving units of the country’s dreaded military into southern provinces affected by horrific communal violence which has seen hundreds killed and thousands injured by gangs wielding machetes, guns and home-made bombs.
“The soldiers came to our village and just started beating up everyone in sight, especially the youths. They accused us of attacking police officers,” claimed one informal miner who fled Mazvihwa village at the weekend and said he was headed for South Africa to seek refuge until the soldiers withdrew.
- Zim soldiers on terror mission in Chiadzwa.
Two female cops were hospitalized, according to witnesses, after being attacked at Mutambi while trying to arrest associates of a gangster known as Aveng, the so-called ‘gweja president’ who moves with dozens of bodyguards. The ‘gweja president’ could not be located but his lieutenant, Richo, was later apprehended by the ‘red berets’, a crack unit of the Zimbabwean military police. However, other wanted thugs, including Come See, Bothy and Jah Jali escaped, according to the sources.
The gwejas launched revenge attacks in Zvishavane on Independence Day, beating up patrons in bars, conducting door-to-door attacks on houses of prostitutes and demanding free sex. Armed riot police only responded to the attacks the following day, after the gwejas had left.
At least 10 army trucks carrying dozens of soldiers in uniform and civilian clothing were seen rolling into the southern town of Zvishavane weeks ago, according to witnesses. Other witnesses said they saw groups of soldiers in army vehicles arrive at the disused former 5th Brigade headquarters at Dadaya just outside Zvishavane.
The deployment came just days after illegal gold hunters known as gwejas threw petrol bombs, injuring three guards at the state’s Sabi Gold Mine. One of the gwejas was shot in the leg during the incident. Gunshots were later heard when police tried to stop random revenge attacks by other gwejas on patrons at a restaurant.
However, critics say the army involvement will just fuel tensions and not end inequities that are the root of the problem. Senior government officials have been fingered in illegal mining in the region. Experts also said the government should address issues of poverty triggered by mine closures and corruption among law enforcement officials.
Corruption within the Zimbabwe Republic Police’s minerals and border control unit is blamed for the failure by the authorities to stem the problem.
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