…as memories of police brutality continue to haunt Wendedzo locals

By Clayton Shereni

Sayina Chinomwe

Memories of police brutality and massive looting of gold by top politicians with the aid of state security forces during the Wendedzo gold rush last year are still fresh amongst locals as they endure lamenting how they failed to benefit from the precious mineral exploration from their ancestral land.

A Masvingo Village Head, Sayina Chinomwe whose jurisdiction encompasses Wendedzo area in Masvingo North, recently lamented the ruthless way police officers handled the gold rush which happened in his area last year.

The traditional leader was addressing journalists during a media tour of the Wendedzo Illegal mining gold fields, organized by the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ).

Village Head Chinomwe said the police had pitched their tent a few meters from the shaft with massive gold deposits which they guarded jealously for their own benefits together with powerful ruling Zanu PF party officials.

“The police were not treating people fairly and they had their own syndicates which they allowed to prospect for gold and then share the proceeds. If a person who wasn’t in their syndicate was caught near the shaft they would make him lie down on his stomach and hit him hard using button sticks,” said Chinomwe.

He also revealed that locals benefitted less than those who came from other areas to ‘loot’ the precious mineral.

“We as locals we got nothing and we were left with open pits which have now become a burden for us because they pose a danger to both people and livestock. People who came from very far areas were controlling this area yet we, custodians of the land got nothing,” he added.

His sentiments were echoed by another villager from nearby Masvingise village in Gutu, Teerai Gwinhi, who said Zanu PF branded vehicles belonging to top officials were given free passage by the police to loot ore from the shafts.

“There were also untouchable syndicates of top ruling party officials in the province that were protected by the police and were allowed free movement in and out the restricted area they looted ore. As ordinary villagers we were chased away oftenly by the heavy handed police forces who at one time opened fire on us,” said Gwinhi

Security officers have been heavily criticized for not manning areas where there are gold and diamond rushes in good faith.

Contacted for comment, Masvingo Provincial police spokesperson, Inspector Kudakwashe Dhewa said they didn’t receive any complaints and encouraged community members to come forward and report.

“We haven’t received any report and we urge anyone with complaints to come to our offices to report or contact us,” Dhewa said.

Human Rights groups in the country accused security apparatus and top politicians and government officials of violating human rights to locals whenever such gold rush are reported in the country.

The Rights groups have documented several incidents of human rights violations and looting of minerals worth millions of dollars from gold rushes.

Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) Director, Farai Maguwu told Centre News that the mining sector has been captured by politicians and that human security was being threatened.

“Our economy began to sink when we adopted ‘extractivism’ as a model of development around 2003 and the model has failed because of the failed because of the politicization and militarization of Zimbabwe’s natural resources.

“In as much as there is increase in mining activities that does not translate to widening of the government’s revenue basket. We are now a resource cursed nation because the abundance of natural resources is actually undermining human security,” said Maguwu.

Centre News could not name top Zanu PF politicians, police and army officials fingered in the massive looting of gold at Wendedzo as more investigations are still under way.

Some of them were allegedly writing travelling permits for their syndicates to travel and prospect for gold at Wendedzo as the rush occurred during the Covid-19 induced travel restrictions.

Efforts to get a comment from Zanu PF Chairman in Masvingo, Robson Mavhenyengwa, were fruitless as his mobile was not reachable by time of going to press.

Massive looting was also reported during the Chiadzwa diamond rush in Manicaland province where top army and police chefs stand accused of looting.  

Former President, the late, Robert Mugabe was on record that diamonds worth US$15 billion was looted by politicians powered by the Securocrats.