Illegal Gold Rush Fuels Violent Crimes

Gwanda villagers believe the increase in violent crimes is perpetrated by illegal gold miners.

BY VUSINDLU MAPHOSA | @The_CBNews | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | JULY 14, 2022

In Gwanda, illegal gold mining is not only driving the informal economy — it is also fueling violent crimes and other ills.

GWANDA (The Citizen Bulletin) — Gwanda is endowed with vast gold deposits, attracting artisanal and small-scale miners but after failing to get the yellow metal, some illegal miners quickly turn into criminals.

A local resident, Melusi Nkiwane says an increase in criminal activities in the town is linked to illegal gold miners.

“We are not safe these days,” Nkiwane says.

“There are a number of incidents in which these gangs have attacked some residents and robbed them of their belongings.”

Locals say they are witnessing an increase in robbers believed to be perpetrated by illegal gold miners.

“As we speak a few days ago they attacked one Phakama resident and robbed him of cash amounting to R2500. What we know is that these gangs are not composed of locals, but people from outside Gwanda.”
Melusi Nkiwane, a local resident

To counter the criminals, locals have formed vigilante neighbourhood watch committees.

The neighbourhood watch committees scored successes recently after tracking down two armed robbery suspects leading to their arrest.

On July 6, police in Gwanda gunned down four armed robbers who had robbed a woman of her vehicle.

Gwanda Residents’ Association member, Siduduzile Masilela says the neighbourhood watch committees are necessary to assist the overstretched police force.

Neighbourhood watch committees help reduce crime in communities. Image by Unsplash

“These people (illegal miners) come thinking that there is a lot of gold and when they arrive, they discover that it's the opposite and start engaging in criminal activities for survival.”
Siduduzile Masilela

The central government put about 95% of mining land in Matabeleland South under Exclusive Prospective Orders (EPOs), a development causing conflict between artisanal miners and authorities.

An EPO gives mining companies exclusive rights to search for minerals and peg claims.

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The license means that small-scale players in Matabeleland are left with no room to prospect for gold, forcing them to bribe government officials to get gold claims or mine illegally and engage in other criminal activities.

*Edited by Lizwe Sebatha | Fact Checked & Proofread by Melody Mpande

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Social and Economic justice, Local government, Gwanda

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