BY DARLINGTON MWASHITA
MACHETE-WIELDING gold panners in Inyati area in Matabeleland North clashed with the police, leading to one of them being shot dead while five others were arrested on Sunday.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed the incident.
The stubborn gold panners reportedly charged at the armed police officers wielding machetes and axes with the intention of attacking the law enforcement agents deployed to stop rampant illegal mining activities at Acuutes Farm.
The five illegal miners who were arrested were identified as Prince Ngwenya (37) of Silobela, Cosmos Ndlovu (34) of Nkayi, Clever Ntakhana (39), Nhlanhla Ncube (34) and Orderly Nzombane (43) all of Inyati area in Bubi district.
Nyathi said the police recovered an okapi knife from the illegal miner who was shot dead but did not identify the deceased for ethical reasons.
However, sources said the panner who was shot dead was identified as Alpha Mabhena (23) of Mbangwa village in Nkayi.
Nyathi said the owner of the farm where the illegal mining activities were taking place, who was identified only as Tshabangu, made a police report.
He said weapons such as axes, shovels, machetes, iron chisels and knobkerries were also recovered at the scene.
“Police will not tolerate acts of violence especially targeted at those who are on duty and action will be taken against any gangs which are going around attacking people, including those at mines,” Nyathi said.
According to a police memorandum on January 5, a team of eight officers, led by Sergeant Matekenya, was deployed at Acuutes Farm to curb gold panning activities.
“At around 4pm, the illegal miners, who were armed with machetes and axes, started charging towards the armed police officers. Constable Mandindo, who was armed with an FN riffle, fired six warning shots in the air after seeing that the mob was advancing at them,” read the memo.
“The warning shots could not deter the mob as it continued to charge towards the police officers and eventually Mandindo shot Mabhena once on the left shoulder. He was armed with an axe and a knobkerrie and he died on the spot.”
The memo states that police managed to apprehend five other panners.