Gold pits pose hazard for school

HURUNGWE - Walking for a distance of nearly seven kilometres on foot during the morning, one nearly gives up hope but bird sounds reassure a worn-out soul of life ahead in Hurungwe’s Pote village.

The tedious journey is made difficult by the fact that there are no vehicles plying the dusty road leading to Sikati Business Centre, the original destination for the Daily News crew.

But something else catches our attention on the way. On the southern side of Pote village, there are mountains of gravel.

Deep gullies are all over the place.

Livestock here can be victims of careless gold panning within Pote area. A 14-year-old boy herding cattle says he is worried that apart from livestock, humans could fall victim to the pits left behind by gold panners.

“We remain cautious as these pits are dangerous to animals,” he said.

Another local, 22-year-old Cosmas Samson said, “These are footprints of destruction. The miners got away with it as they never paid back to rehabilitate the area for nearly three years. The community should have benefited or the miners should have refilled the pits."

Villagers here say gold panners abandoned the area in 2010.

“A former gold miner called Chiyava from village 20 opened six shafts that are nearly 30 metres deep but never came back to refill them. Unfortunately these deep pits are within the school yard and remain unprotected. It is risky for pupils as they come here fetching water,” said Tichaona Mukarange of village 24.

Although the  school head of Sikati Primary School was not available for comment, some teachers say they notified the Environment Management Agency (Ema) office in Karoi about 40 kilometres away.

“As a school authority, we highlighted our concerns but we are still yet to get action from Ema. They have legal instruments to arrest suspects. We fear that children may be trapped and no one can rescue them as the pits are too deep,” said a teacher who refused to be named.

Sikati Primary School has an enrolment of over 200 pupils but parents are unsure if the day passes without any of their children being trapped.

“Some villagers are losing cattle in these unprotected gullies all over Pote area and no one has been arrested. Responsible authorities must be seen taking action over the land degradation," said the teacher.

An Ema Hurungwe district officer identified as Gandidzanwa could not be reached for comment at the time of writing. - Criswell Chitsa

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