ZELA’s latest Mining Sector Situational Report is out. This edition highlights a range of interesting issues which include laws relating to mining disputes, how corruption is fueling conflict in the mining sector and the involvement of security officers in illegal mining operations. Read on for more on this and other issues.
Security Officers Involved in the Illegal Mining Operations and Conflicts
Since 2017, newspaper reports have been awash with stories of involvement of police and military officers in ASM and taking over mining claims. In 2020 ASM miners in Gwanda reported several cases of some police officers who were allegedly working in cahoots with criminals to rob miners of their gold. In 2020, ten police officers were arrested in Chegutu for allegedly prospecting without a license. Again in 2020, police officers who were protecting a disaster site Ran mine, where 30 artisanal miners were trapped allegedly offered security services by day and by night accepted bribes for people to go into the restricted area to mine for gold. The police are said to have charged US$10 per night.
Miners have bemoaned the involvement of state security agents in the mining sector. Where they should be working to stop the criminal elements that cause conflicts, some unruly security agents work in syndicates with criminals. One miner in Kwekwe said, “in Kwekwe one can mine without the sufficient paperwork as long as they pay the CID USD$100 and that is how some opportunists can take control over your claim.” Some women indicated that when one goes to report a crime or a dispute the police use that as an opportunity to harvest information on prolific gold locations and share the information with their syndicates on the ground who then go and raid or displace the miners violently.
All these factors mentioned above end up fuelling violence. The machete wielding gangs have caused havoc in the ASM sector with many lives lost, innocent people injured, and property lost to the gangs. In the past few years, the machete gangs used machete as their weapons of choice, but some are replacing them with guns. The gangs are described by some ASM miners as acting like vultures that are lurking around waiting for the next gold discovery before they pounce and take away the hard- earned ore/gold.
One ASM miner in Kwekwe expressed his fears and anger as follows “We work in fear, in fear for our lives and those of our families. The machete gangs use different monikers such as ‘Khetho’, ’Barcas’ (MaBarca) and ‘Magirigamba’ and they do not make it easy. After working so hard and investing a lot of money to mine and get gold they come when you have found the gold and demand that you give it to them. In some cases, they follow you at home and violently demand either gold or money. The sad part is when one reports to the police the perpetrator is arrested and released an hour later.”
In Zvishavane women shared stories of how they are threatened and violently forced to load their ore into the vehicle of the criminal elements or gangs. Most conflicts related to claim ownership that sometimes the ASM miners take to the courts and to the police end up being referred to Ministry of Mines which has a special unit that handles mine related disputes.
Based on interviews with Ministry of Mines officials, it was revealed that the Ministry receives cases of disputes at least twice a week. To handle the cases, the provincial mining office summon the parties involved in a dispute for a meeting to hear each side of the story. Where necessary they conduct field visits before giving a determination and directive to address or resolve the dispute.
However, any determination or decision can be contested, and complainants can appeal to the Ministry where there is a dispute resolution committee comprised of surveyors and lawyers. The Permanent Secretary can appoint a team to investigate the case independently. If complainants are not happy again, they can go to the High Court. High Court looks at merits and demerits of the case. The court does not normally come to a decision on its own, it normally instruct the Provincial Mining Director (PMD) to send a field report and use it as a basis for its decision. Some cases may also go to the Minister. These mainly involve cases of mining title cancellation recommended by the PMD. However, the Provincial offices and inspectors have challenges with financial and human resources. This jeopardizes the Ministry’s visibility on the ground. Ideally, the Ministry of Mines must always be on the ground to monitor and enforce compliance with mining laws and standards and not to only wait for disputes. The ministry is mostly seen on the ground when death occurs. Some criminals and miners take advantage of their absence to commit crimes and take over some mine sites or encroach on other people’s mines. This result in some cases going for one-two years without being resolved.
Police receive dispute cases over claim ownership, but they do not deal with these, they refer Mining Sector Situational Report (SIT-REP)11 to Ministry of Mines. Police only comes in for enforcement of the law after recommendations from the Ministry of Mines or Court. When cases are referred by police to Ministry of Mines, Ministry sends back a letter to the police with recommendations. On average the police in Kwekwe allegedly receive one case every month. However, the case can be recurring and can be dealt with like 10 times. In the event that all parties are instructed to stop operations for further investigations, the same case will give rise to other cases of theft and trespassing as both parties will be sneaking into mine and they end up reporting each other.
Some police and court officials who were interviewed revealed that, they never receive feedback from the Ministry of Mines on cases that they would have referred to them. Some miners and gangs are taking advantage of this loophole. They have a system which they call “cause confusion and during the confusion work and loot then leave.”
Read the full report here (1MB PDF)
Source: Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association