MASVINGO RURAL – More than 120 gold panners have been arrested by Police and made to pay fines of RTGS$20 000 each for violating Covid-19 lockdown regulations as they rushed to benefit from new alluvial gold discoveries made in a farm in Hwendedzo 20km from Masvingo last week.
The panners were taken to court in batches and those that could not pay the $20 000 were immediately taken to Mutimurefu Prison. The Mirror understands that the Zimbabwe prisons and the magistrates courts were by Friday overwhelmed by the numbers and it was directed that the suspects pay fine at the police Station without coming to court.
A geogist with the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development, Joseph Chimhini confirmed the gold found on stretch of 272 meters a hilly area of Hwendedzo.
Some 160m of the stretch belongs to Pastor Joseph Muzhuzha of United Family International Church while the remainder belongs to Trimzim of Harare which has an exclusive prospecting order (EPO). The director of TrimZim is a Simango.
The first raid by the Police was conducted on Tuesday at 2am where 48 panners were nabbed for unnecessary loitering during lockdown although they were conducting alluvial mining.
The panners appeared at Masvingo Magistrate where they were made to pay a fine of RTGS$20 000 each or three months imprisonment. They were not given time to look for the fines and only six managed to pay while 38 were send to prison with two being remanded in custody after pleading not guilty.
Magistrates Concept Ngwerume, Patience Madondo and Perseverance Makhala heard the cases while Hither Mhlanga, Edmund Mapope and Innocent Mbambo prosecuted.
On Wednesday another raid resulted in 57 being arrested for the same offence at the same place and they appeared in court in Masvingo with 34 being convicted and sent to prison, seven juveniles were warned and cautioned. Sixteen cases are still pending as the accused pleaded not guilty to the charge.
On the same day the Police swooped the area and 16 were nabbed and were made to pay fines of ZWL5000 at the Police Station as the courts claimed that they were now overwhelmed by numbers.
Mutimurefu Prison also raised a red flag as it was now overwhelmed by the number of prisoners considering the spike in the number of inmates contracting the deadly Coronavirus.
Ten panners managed to pay the fines and the other six were remanded in custody.