GOVERNMENT is facing fresh headaches over Gaika Mine invasion after soldiers and police officers deployed to seal it off started to fraternise with the trespassers and joined the gold looting spree, it has emerged.
BY ANDREW KUNAMBURA
The mine is located in the gold-rich Kwekwe area.
The development comes as State Security minister Owen Ncube torched a firestorm after he gave invaders, led by a former Mbizo legislator Vongai Mupereri, permission to resume operations at the mine in violation of a High Court ruling against the looters.
Gaika Mine is a joint venture between China Africa Investment, Development Co. Ltd (CAIDC) and Duration Gold Limited (DGL) owned by British-based Clarity Capital, who have over the past 18 months been subjected to terror at the hands of machete-wielding gold panners.
According to sources involved in the proceedings, government is now considering replacing the soldiers—who are from the nearby Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) Fife Brigade—with those from the Mutare-based 3 Brigade.
This also comes as the Joint Operations Command (Joc) defied Ncube’s letter in which he wanted the soldiers and police officers to pave way to the invaders.
“The soldiers are still on the ground. They are from the nearby 5 Brigade and have the backing of officers from the police’s Support Unit. It has however emerged that their presence has not helped matters that much as they are either being paid by the illegal miners to allow them in or joined in digging for gold altogether. It was also realised that some of the soldiers are already well-known to the miners and this has not helped matters,” an intelligence source said this week.
“So from our side, we have recommended that the best possible move would be to replace them with soldiers from a distant brigade and my understanding is that they are considering military officers from 3 Brigade in Mutare,” the source said.
The source added that during their investigations, they realised that Mpereri and Ncube co-owned a gold milling plant where the illegal miners took ore for grinding.
This, the source said, explains why Ncube wanted the artisanal miners to continue operating at the mine at the expense of the owners.
“The minister wanted to argue on the technicality that he had travelled outside the country for medical treatment when Joc resolved to deploy soldiers to the mine and so the deployment was unprocedural since he chairs the National Security Council. Mpereri then came with the letter and tried to use it to get rid of the soldiers but it did not work because they simply told him that they are here on the strength of an operational order and they can only leave on the strength of another.”
“The two (Ncube and Mpereri) own a gold milling plant in the area so they think if the artisanal miners are kicked out, they will not benefit. You have to understand that the miners only realise 30% of the gold through milling and the remaining 70% is recovered through cyanidation of the ore that remains once grinding is done. So what happens is that the miners bring their ore for grinding and, once that is done, they leave the rest to the owners of the mill,” the intelligence source said.
It also emerged this week that CAIDC and DGL, after realising that the deployment of soldiers was proving to be fruitless, have now moved to secure the mine with high-voltage electric fences and drones.
“They are moving very fast to secure the mine. First they have hired their own private security company and are now moving to erect two high-voltage electric fences around the mine. The plan is to put an inner ring and an outer ring and leave a road in-between to allow for security patrols. I think by Friday (today) they will be starting because all the equipment has been moved to the site. They also have plans to secure the mine with drones which will patrol the premises around the clock,” the source said.
Efforts to get comment from Ncube and Mpereri were fruitless as their mobile phones were unreachable.