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S-O-S as gold panners dig underneath railway line


S-O-S as gold panners dig underneath railway line



MVUMA – Gold panners, allegedly backed by powerful Police officers and traditional leaders have caused havoc in Mvuma where they are digging tunnels underneath a critical railway line that connects Masvingo Province with the rest of the country.
Two big tunnels were dug 10 metres from the railway line. The tunnels go down a few metres before they turn towards the line and it is suspected that they run below it.
Vandalising NRZ property attracts 10 years in jail, according to a representative of the company.
Armed security agents shot and injured at least four gold panners in operations carried out in the last four weeks and some of them are admitted at Gweru Provincial Hospital, according to Christopher Magwaza, a war veteran in whose farm (Subdivision 179 of Central Estates) the illegal activities are taking place.
The place is now guarded by CID Gweru and security details from NRZ but the illegal gold panners jump back to mine any time that the place is unguarded.
Sources said several cars of influential people including a local chief were impounded after they were found loaded with ore at the site. The vehicles were however, returned to the owners under mysterious circumstances. Uniformed soldiers were also allegedly seen carrying away ore from the railway line, according to sources.
The situation is so dire that locomotive trips have since been stopped in fear of risk of accidents. The same railway line will be used to transport minerals and goods for the Dinson Iron and Steel Company in Manhize near Mvuma.
NRZ Public Affairs and Stakeholder Relations manager Andrew Kunambura confirmed the matter in a telephone interview.
Midlands Police spokesperson Inspector Emmanuel Makoko said, “Let me come back to you in due course,”.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development, Engineer Joy Pedzisai Makumbe referred all questions to the NRZ.
Acting Chief Chirumhanzu born Fidelis Mudzengi could not be reached for a comment as his mobile phone was not available.
The Mirror visited the area this week and found CID and NRZ details guarding the place.
“Vandalism of assets is a problem that we face particularly in areas infested with gold panners. It is an issue that we are trying to fight through our loss control and security department.
“We have launched a nationwide campaign to raise awareness against these activities and to arrest and bring to book those that are found vandalising NRZ property. Culprits who vandalise NRZ property in terms of Railways Act get a mandatory imprisonment sentence of 10 years because this is a critical national infrastructure,” said Kunambura
“I have over the last six months made several reports to Police on illegal panners mining in my farm and underneath the railway line.
“Mvuma Police said it had no vehicles although the illegal activities take place 15kms away from their station. Several sources have implicated them in the illegal mining. It took a month before any authority responded to the report including NRZ,” said Magwaza.
The damage caused has seen locomotives stopping plying the routes.

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