IN the past two months, one of the highly debated topics has been the mindless looting and plunder of gold by bigwigs to prop up their personal and family interests.
But that is not the only worry. Zimbabwe’s gold resource is slowly mutating into a clear example of the proverbial “resource curse” — a sector where if big fish and their cronies are not stealing, the small fish are being hacked to death by machete-wielding gangs, who freely roam and rule the informal goldfields.
Many of them do kill at the behest of the ruling elites, shooting at the weak, confiscating their bullion at gunpoint and taking off with the loot to oil their expensive lifestyles.
It is also concerning that authorities formalised gold panning, but failed to implement measures that prevent needless deaths and injuries to citizens who are combing through hundreds of old and disused shafts, tearing off tunnel support pillars and ending up being trapped underground.
Surely, where the state allows 1,5 million people to rummage through specialised workplaces with endemic dangers, it must follow through with strategies that prevent harm and deaths. Even where five people are working, measures to prevent injury are enforced.
But Zimbabwe has been turned into a lawless jungle because the culprits behind the looting disdain order. For them order means loss of income. They cause mayhem in order to create avenues of unchecked plunder, never mind the bloodshed. This is sheer madness.
Our people are perishing underground and hundreds of children have been orphaned. Yet our government appears comfortable with this because gold panning is being used as an electioneering tool.
US$1,5 billion worth of gold is being salted away annually because selfish people have been allowed to stand in the way of common sense. The police must be empowered — without being given the licence to kill and loot — to go into the goldfields to bring order and save lives.
These illegal miners work hard, under excruciating conditions, only to be asked to surrender their gold to Fidelity Printers and Refineries for a song. It is another form of looting that has been perpetrated by the state. It must end immediately by giving these cursed miners fair value.
It is a risk that the miners have to take to save their families. So they have to be rewarded accordingly. Some of them are graduates that have been denied opportunities to succeed by endless misrule. They know where their gold gives them more money, and they simply ship it there at the expense of the entire economy. This is why we call upon the government to smell the coffee and do the right thing. In this case, the right thing means properly administering the goldfields to save lives and to reward the miners fairly. Otherwise we risk turning our goldfields into Africa’s worst resource curse.
Future generations will not forgive us for these killings and plunder.