Illegal gold panner drowns after police raid

PENHALONGA – A youthful illegal panner recently drowned in a slime dam after attempting to flee a police raid.

Police in Mutare confirmed the death of John Mabika (19) on May 10.

The deceased was among youths driven by hunger to defy the government’s national lockdown to illegally pan for gold.

It is reported that on May 5, a group of illegal artisanal miners was mining during the day at Redwing Mine Goldfields near Mutare River when police and Redwing Mine security officers raided the area.

Sensing danger, the illegal panners fled towards the river.

Some of the youths managed to swim across, while one was apprehended by the police.

Mabika fell into a muddy slime dam, making it difficult for him to be noticed.

The following morning, his family members visited Penhalonga Police Station to make enquiries on the arrested miners, only to be told that his name was not on the list.

His family, with the help of others in their community, began a 5-day search and his body was found in an advanced state of decomposition, floating in the muddied slime dam.

He was buried on the same day.

A local community service organisation, Zivai Community Empowerment Trust (ZICET), has appealed to the Redwing Mine authorities to rehabilitate pits and slime dams that are pausing a great danger to the community.

ZICET Manicaland province coordinator Mildred Muzanechita said: “We make a clarion call to Redwing Mine authorities to fulfil what is in their Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), that is, to rehabilitate the disused pits and also put perimeter fencing on their mine fields,” she said.

“We believe that similar cases have been happening without being noticed and reported,” Muzanechita said.

“With these economic hardships faced by the youths during this period of lockdown, most youths are relying on gold panning in Mutare River for survival, so we are praying for amicable solutions in order to end these deaths and other foreseeable disasters,” he added.