Stakeholders in the mining sector are calling for Zimbabwe’s judiciary system to make no bail for the machete-wielding gangs, also known as MaShurugwi, who have been terrorising citizens in the gold miners’ communities.
The 45 citizens, made such a call at a Multi-Stakeholder Conference on Violence in the Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining Sector organised by the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) and the European Partnership for Responsible Minerals (EPRM) on Friday last week.
“Stringent and deterrent sentences must be endorsed while the judiciary must ensure that bail is not granted to these human rights violators,” reads the call.
“There is need for a holistic understanding of the machete violence. This will contribute to the development of multifaceted responses to curb criminality.”
Attacks perpetrated by the machete gangs has left some dead and others injured.
ZELA’s Economic Governance Officer, Mukasiri Sibanda called the violence being carried out by machete gangs in the Artisinal Small Scale Gold Mining disturbing.
“There is a temptation to deal with the root cause of the violence swiftly to restore order in the mining sector. A major challenge with this approach is dealing with mineral resource governance issues in silos. Strategic interventions are required to fine tune the governance of the mining sector which is a critical leverage for unlocking the sustainable development dividend for the country – towards Vision 2030,” he said.
“Asset disclosure, conflict of interest declaration and register is needed to ensure that senior politicians and public officials do not parcel to each other mineral rights like river bed mining. The reform of the archaic Mines and Minerals Act is needed. It is fundamental for the reform process to embrace artisanal mining in line with the aspirations of the Africa Mining Vision (AMV) and decriminalizing a livelihood for millions of Africans. These are key governance issues to reflect on.”
Chief Justice Luke Malaba is quoted in the local media stating that harsher prison sentencing will be a more fitting punishment that will keep communities safe from the “Mashurugwi” criminals.
“The country is gripped by another spate of violence perpetrated by the so called machete gangs,” Malaba is quoted as saying.
“The judiciary acknowledges the work being undertaken by the law enforcement agencies in bringing perpetrators of that wave to book. May I assure the nation that the courts will decisively deal with the accused of these offences in accordance with the law.”
“We hear stories of callous murders of ordinary Zimbabweans and law enforcements agents. Citizens’ rights of freedom of movement, freedom to conduct their affairs without fear and freedom of associations are being violated with impunity by the gangsters,” he added.
Gold is expected to contribute US$4 billion, a third of the anticipated US$12 billion earnings from mining by 2023.
“Since gold digging is almost synonymous with USD earnings, more and more people have been attracted into Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM). “Criminals too, have found ASM to be a lucrative hunting ground. It is not only about the USD; climate change is disrupting production in the agricultural sector, thereby pushing more and more people into ASM, now a prominent source of livelihood in rural areas and some urban areas,” ZELA’s Deputy Director and Kimberly Process (KP) civil society coordinator, Shamiso Mtisi said.