Resurgnt violent gangs targeting gold-rich areas have launched a reign of terror in rural Mbembesi, and villagers are now at their mercy as they dig around homesteads in search of the precious mineral.
There has been a gold rush in the area recently which has attracted illegal gold panners infamously known as MaShurugwi.
Some Mbembesi villagers said the machete and knife-wielding gangs have even been digging around a graveyard through which a gold belt runs and have also besieged a chief’s homestead.
There are fears the gangs could spread Covid-19 as they move in large numbers without observing social distancing and often operate into the night, disregarding the dusk-to-dawn national curfew.
Mbembesi is located about 50 km outside the city of Bulawayo along Bulawayo-Harare highway.
The gold panners are also reported to be digging underneath Mbembesi’s road network, rendering it unsafe for vehicles and passengers to use.
Villagers have been left hopeless as any challenge to the gangs’ illegal activities is met with serious violence.
Chief Ndondo this week confirmed to NewZimbabwe.com the illegal gold panners have become a menace in Mbembesi.
“The illegal gold panners are a menace. They have dug under our main roads and its now dangerous for motorists to travel. We have reported to the police but they kept on saying they don’t have transport,” Chief Ndondo said.
He also confirmed the illegal gold panners were now digging close to his homestead.
“They have caused a lot of damage. We are appealing for help to curb their criminal activities. This should not take that long when an issue has been reported to the police,” he said.
A villager Nkululeko Majola said the situation was volatile in Mbembesi, and appealed for State security forces’ intervention.
“They have no respect for the sacred places in our area. They are even digging in our gravesites, you can imagine the kind of people we are dealing with. They are digging in our fields close to our homesteads. If you try to approach them they turn very violent. We are living in fear,” he said.
“These people come from different places some of them from areas which have high cases of Covid-19 positive people. They also don’t adhere to Covid-19 prevention measures as they don’t have protective equipment. They mingle with locals at the business centre and could spread the deadly virus.”