Artisanal miners hit back at Grace Mugabe

HARARE - Former  first lady Grace Mugabe may have made millions of dollars through gold mining at 16 gold claims she seized at Smithfield Farm in Mazowe, it has been alleged.

The claim was made at a news conference yesterday by the artisanal miners who vowed to defy attempts by Grace to evict them from the mineral-rich Smithfield Farm.

This comes after  Home Affairs and Culture minister Obert Mpofu said, last weekend, the former first lady was defying a court order to vacate Smithfield Farm, which she claims has been invaded by artisanal miners who are suspected to be Zanu PF youths.

On Thursday last week, Grace confronted the illegal artisanal miners who she alleged now pose a threat to the thriving citrus plantation.

The former first lady claims she has papers proving that she is the bona fide owner of the property.

In a report made to Mazowe Police Station on Thursday, Grace indicated that some of her properties have been stolen.

She claims the illegal gold miners who threatened to beat her up, might be the thieves targeting her empire in Mazowe.

“The illegal activities also pose a security threat to my children’s home as the illegal panners are also seen loitering inside the home at night, and recently theft cases have occurred at the home,” she said in her recorded report.

Mpofu told a press briefing that there was a High Court ruling directing Gushungo Holdings — a business concern owned by the former first family — to vacate the mining claim.

Shepherd Nyazvingo, co-owner of the mining claim in dispute, told reporters yesterday that in January this year, they obtained a provisional order from the High Court which barred police and Gushungo Holdings from interfering with their mining operations.

The miners declined to say if they would seek compensation from Grace for loss of income during the time she had illegal occupation of their property.

“We are not at liberty to say the amount of money that we realised since we started in 2000 up to the time we were forced out in 2014 but let’s just say $15 million,” the artisanal miners co-director Phillip Makanya told the news conference.

His colleague Nyazvingo said Grace forced out the miners under the pretext that it was a protected zone.

“She came in 2013 with lies that the area had been made classified as a protected zone, that’s how she pushed us. We then went to the ministry of Mines and asked if it was true that our mine had been classified under protected zones and they confirmed that it was now a protected zone,” Nyazvingo said.

“So, after she chased us out, she made an application at the ministry of Mines to try and take over our mines. In 2014 she was given a prospecting special grant which is valid for 12 months.

“She started excavating our mine. She went on to construct a mill with the help of a Chinese company, all this while she only had a prospecting special grant. So we went to court as she had barred us from entering the mine.

“We were granted a provisional order from the High Court barring Gushungo Holdings from interfering with our mining operations.

“So, on March 29, she came and tried to force us out.  But we stood our ground. We are genuine miners.

“We sell all our gold to Fidelity; we are not what she portrays us to be,” said Nyazvingo, who also rubbished claims that they stole laptops.

In a police report made last week, Grace said she was touring the farm when she was “shocked to find approximately 400 men illegally panning for gold.”

When she confronted them at the farm, she said they “started to shout obscenities at me and continued with their unlawful activities.”

Mpofu told a news conference last weekend that the ZRP attended the scene on March 30 and 31, 2018 and established through interviews and physical checks and there were no illegal miners.

“The enquiries revealed that there is a mining dispute between the former first family and three mining syndicates, Mondo 3 led by Bright Maonga, Mondo 4 mining claim led by (Shepherd) Nyazvingo and Xmas 159 led by Mohammed Khan.

“The syndicates went to the High Court and obtained a provisional order which bars police and Gushungo Holdings from interfering with their mining operations, High Court order HC 293/18 refers,” he said.

Grace alleged that the illegal panners had stolen 31 laptops, but Mpofu said that is a lie.

Mpofu said only eight laptops went missing on March 2.

He also said the laptops were stolen by her employees who have since been arrested.

Mpofu said according to police, Grace’s employees Amos Masimure, 29 and Wilson Pomba, 32, were arrested for unlawful entry and theft, leading to the recovery of six laptops.

He said Masimure appeared at Bindura Magistrates’ Court on March 14, was found guilty and sentenced to two years and six months in jail. Mpofu said Masimure was also ordered to “restitute a sum of $1500 before April 30.

Meanwhile, Pomba has been remanded to April 9 on $50 bail over the theft.

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