A few weeks ago, Innocent Manamike of Rutendo in Redcliff survived a machete attack. he is still nursing many deep cuts and a broken leg.
BY TAPIWA ZIVIRA/JOHN MOKWETSI/Audrey Mutasa
He narrated his ordeal in a voice clearly haunted by the pain he endured.
“Kwekwe is not for the faint-hearted. The gold mines which used to be a source of income have transformed into rivers of blood,” Manamike says and looks away as if to banish the memory of his torment.
On that fateful day, Manamike recalls how he and a friend went in search for gold at the Globe and Phoenix mine (G&P), situated just outside Kwekwe’s CBD, where illegal gold panners converge in search of the sought-after precious mineral.
He recounts how disaster struck as soon as they climbed down into the mine shaft and had begun digging for the precious metal.
“A group of machete-wielding men came down to where we were and started to assault us. Apparently, they thought we had gold on us and they wanted it,” he recounted.
“There are gangs of people who attack and rob gold miners. Some of them are actually miners, but they have become so powerful that at times police are not able to contain them. It is a war down there in the shafts.”
Manamike was left with a broken leg and his friend sustained a broken arm in the attack.
“I can tell you there are many people admitted at Kwekwe General Hospital with injuries sustained in these attacks,” he said.
The Standard could, however, not independently verify these claims.
Residents of Kwekwe have been living with the reality of the machete wars among gangs that attack each other over gold.
“This place is not safe and if you intend to go there [at the mine], I suggest that you don’t do it. There is too much violence there and I suggest that you go back where you’ve come from in one piece,” he said.
Although it once produced the world’s richest gold ore, G&P, as Globe and Phoenix mine is now referred, is now a pale shadow of itself. The roads that lead to the mine are now impassable — riddled with potholes.
According to the media, G&P — at one time one of the world’s most productive gold mines — suffered from operational problems and stopped mining activities in 2007 after falling foul of environmental laws.
Menius Mhare, another gold miner said his life is inextricable from his job despite the dangers.
“We have survived because of those mines. But makorokoza [a colloquial for gold panners] from Silobela and Nzombe have invaded this place with machetes, spears and axes killing for the gold.”
He said since the closure of Ziscosteel, young unemployed people had resorted to panning despite the violence associated with this job.
The Standard crew met with a teacher, Dumisani Musvove who was attacked while he enjoyed his drink at a club in Torwood. He still carries scars all over his body.
“Fear is the way we now understand life here. The place is swarming with makorokoza and others who are taking advantage of the disturbances to rob us. I was attacked for drinking beer and I almost died,” said Musvove.
As the night dawned we took to G&B to film the gold fields. Two suspicious looking men refused to speak to us as they emerged from the thicket in the periphery of the city.
They monitored our moves before disappearing into the city. One of them warned us of the dangers of going further saying we could be killed.
Another who identified himself as George said there had been violence there in recent weeks in which two gangs clashed and seriously injured each other.
“This is not a safe place to be walking this time. Please be careful because no police will come to your help,” George said.
As we went back to the city we passed through a popular joint called KwaMaiguru. Gold panners had already started to converge there clad in work suits drinking beer and chatting away. We filmed them secretly.
We later learnt that is was also dangerous to be too comfortable in the pubs patronized by gold panners who will be out to outdo each other in the show of money.
As another sun rose and shone onto the streets of Kwekwe the following morning, it appeared to mask the bloody encounters that have become part of life in this mining town.
This is a town that is supposed to show wealth and status owing to its strategic positioning above goldfields, but it has instead become a place of blood, conflict and pain.