Abject poverty amid glut of gold

HARARE - “When you talk of gold you are talking of massive development in an area, affluence and joy, but sadly this is not the case here in Silobela,” lamented a man who only identified himself as Moyo at a shopping centre near Crossroads.

“All you see are the Fawcett trucks ferrying our gold from Jena Mines, almost three times  a week, as this land bleeds in poverty and starvation.

“The large mining companies are not ploughing back into the community, and to worsen the situation, unemployment is very high. Our children now resort to gold panning once they leave school to fend for themselves and their families,” said the 52-year-old.

His seemingly passive demeanour echoes the general mood of the villagers who have watched the devastating impact of mining on the environment and excesses of human greed.

Gold-rich Silobela lies in the Midlands province, far removed from the conscience of the government and for the past five years has been wallowing in hunger and poverty as the rains have not been generous amid the abundance of the rich mineral resource, gold, underground.

The Daily News visit sparks life as poverty- stricken villagers pour out their disillusionment with the present government.

They say government has failed to address their plight.

A series of disappointments from the black government for three decades through failed policies, false promises and neglect are evident from their tone.

“Look at Arda, their produce goes to GMB and other cities where those who are not facing drought problems  benefit,” says a local businessmen who refused to be named fearing reprisals.

“That is why many people are calling for devolution. Look at all that green, in the midst of this hunger.”
 
The government-sponsored farm, Arda,  is an oasis of agriculture in this arid and drought-stricken area where cattle and humans compete for water at the boreholes.

The farm produces high-grade wheat, potatoes and there is vast produce harvested at this commercial entity.

The grumbling villagers are watching in envy, but cannot lay hands on the food from the Arda farm.

The nine boreholes built by the local Member of Parliament for Silobela Anadi Arnold Sululu, thanks to the Constituency Development Funds, is one of the few good things villagers here thank the government for.

Sululu said a new political dispensation focusing on national development and not self-aggrandisement is the panacea to his constituency’s problems.

“When one looks at Arda Farm here and the hunger which villagers are facing, you will be pained. Those who  are behind this project need a rethink and focus on the locals,” Sululu said.

As we travel around, signs of moral decay among the youths, idly milling around every shopping centre we visited are heart-rending.

Girls in their teens are victims of child labour working in so-called “restaurants” and are ultimately exposed to prostitution, offering their services to bus drivers and villagers alike.

Others have resorted to crime to make ends meet.

One of the rowdy gold panners or Makorokoza, and known for harassing revelers was arrested for axing three people, according to a past victim of the gang who narrated to us the events of the previous night.

As far as Silobela residents are concerned, disappointment at their backwardness becomes more and more vociferous as the depression deepens and indeed, it is fully justified.

Villagers in Silobela pose for a photo at a local shop. - Albert Masaka

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