Army plots crackdown against gold panners

Commander Lieutenant-General Anselem Sanyatwe

Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) commander Lieutenant-General Anselem Sanyatwe has  ordered a crackdown against illegal settlers and gold panners encroaching into a military cantonment on the outskirts of Bulawayo.

Sanyatwe  said the illegal settlers and gold panners must be strictly dealt with while addressing a military parade to mark the changing of the command of the ZNA Bulawayo District at Lookout Masuku Barracks held last Tuesday.

Colonel Collen Ncube took over from Colonel Osslie Ollie Mhandu as the new district commander.

Sanyatwe expressed concerns about the encroachment into the ZNA Bulawayo district cantonment and training areas by locals in Umguza district that engage in illegal mining activities.

“The situation has been contained and I want you to maintain the status quo,” he said.

“Illegal mining activities are also a teething challenge and I encourage you to remain firm to ensure that no further encroachments take place.”

Since 2021, villagers at Sigola, Esigodini in Matabeleland South were involved in a land wrangle with the ZNA, which  accused them of illegally settling in the military cantonment.

At the height of the dispute ZNA spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Alphios Makotore described the villagers as ‘illegal’ settlers, who needed to be encouraged to vacate the area after they ‘built their huts within the precincts of the Lookout Masuku Garrison’.

“Following the army’s efforts to remove them within the precincts of the camp, the culprits started crying foul,” Makotore said back then.

“Villagers risk their lives by settling within a rifle gallery range where weapons are continuously fired during training exercises.”

Makotore said the area had always been designated for military training dating back to the colonial era where it was called Llewellyn Barracks and was used for training.

He said the area is under the custody and protection of the ZNA as gazetted under the Defence Act, Chapter 11:02.

Sanyatwe’s orders came at a time when Bulawayo City Council is also battling an influx of gold panners and sand poachers at the city’s dams catchment areas and other suburbs, including the National University of Science and Technology (Nust).

Six Bulawayo men appeared in court last week to answer to charges of gold panning at Nust. They were remanded in custody until April 25.

In 2017, more than 200 gold panners invaded Bulawayo’s Matsheumhlope suburb where they were operating about 20 metres from residential homes.

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