Some rangers employed by the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) to protect the Chimanimani National Park in eastern Zimbabwe are allegedly facilitating illegal gold mining.
Julia Pierini, head of BirdLife Zimbabwe, a non-profit organisation, told Reuters that as a result of the illegal mining activities, “waters are being polluted; the biodiversity poisoned; endemic plants dug up (and) trampled; animals and birds poached; (and) litter strewn all over the mountains.”
Collen Sibanda, vice chairman of the Chimanimani Tourist Association (CTA) attributed the increase in the number of illegal gold mining activities to the coronavirus pandemic. Sibanda said added:
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For the past couple of years, we have been seeing illegal gold miners in the mountains, but suddenly during lockdown we started to see hundreds of them.
An anonymous source who was part of the illegal mining until chased away by military drafted in to clear the area implicated Zimparks saying rangers would collect the gold in return for payment in US dollars. The source said:
Zimparks is recruiting people. They are organising these syndicates.
I thought it was legal because we were working with the rangers.
We were given a target, we would sell about 40 grams of gold per day.
This comes when the Finance Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube has admitted that large volumes of gold are being smuggled through the country’s porous borders thereby robbing the state of millions of dollars in potential revenue.
The reports also come at the backdrop of allegations that the army also facilitated illegal diamond mining in areas such as Chiadzwa and Marange.
Zimbabwe is blessed with a rich bounty of natural resources, however, despite being so richly endowed and despite the mining boom of the past decade, the Southern African country is still ranked among the poorest countries on the planet.
More: New Zimbabwe