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Scores injured as illegal miners storm village

by Staff reporter
16 Sep 2022 at 06:05hrs | Views
Villagers in the Malungwane area of Umzingwane District are living in fear after they were attacked by suspected illegal gold miners armed with spears, machetes and axes on Wednesday afternoon, leaving scores injured.

The village is about 30km from Esigodini Township in Matabeleland South Province.

The illegal gold miners operate from a mountain near Malungwane Village.

When a Chronicle news crew arrived at Malungwane yesterday afternoon, villagers were still visibly shaken by the events that occurred 24 hours earlier.

The attack was the talk of the village.

Villagers said they heard people singing and "toyi-toying" while descending from the mountain. Thereafter, a group of men started attacking people who were at their homesteads. The illegal gold miners are said to have only attacked men, while threatening women, demanding cellphones and cash as they entered homesteads.

About 10 victims were rushed by villagers to Esigodini District Hospital, as they had varying degrees of injuries.

At the Phiri homestead, evidence of the violent orgy was visible as houses and three cars had their window panes shattered, and a huge solar panel was also destroyed.

The homestead houses a widow, Mrs Makanani Phiri, her grandchildren, relatives and her son Gracious and his wife Ms Loveness Sibanda.

There were glass particles strewn all over the yard and huge stones were also scattered along with heavily blood-stained clothes which belonged to one of the victims.

Ms Sibanda (39), a mother of three, said the illegal gold miners were attacking men only during the violence and her husband was one of the victims.

"These people live on the mountain and they came down on Thursday afternoon at around 2pm. They were beating up anyone in their path. I think there were more than 40 of them and they came to my house. They were demanding cash and cellphones while beating up my husband during the attack," said Ms Sibanda.

She said her husband was beaten with an axe handle and he lost two of his front teeth.

Mrs Sibanda said about 10 villagers were taken to hospital after the attack.

"When they didn't get the money or cellphones, they started breaking the windows at my house. They forced their way into the different houses at this compound. I saw one of our villagers being stabbed with a spear in the stomach and buttocks," said Ms Sibanda.

She said her daughter upon seeing that her father was being beaten up, confronted the attackers.

Miss Sharon Phiri, who completed her schooling last year, said one of the attackers, pulled out a machete and threatened to hack her if she did not comply.

"I saw my father being beaten up and I went out of the house where I was hiding and confronted them. My father had tried to escape from one of the windows and he was attacked by someone in the mob. I started crying pleading with them to stop beating him up and one of them took out a machete and told me to shut up," said Miss Phiri.

She urged authorities to remove the illegal gold miners from the area as they were causing havoc.

Ms Thandekile Zhou said whenever there is a gold rush, villagers bear the brunt of attacks.

"This isn't the first time this has happened. Every time some villagers discover gold, these men come here and chase us away. I think they live in Habane Township and they do not want our children to eke out a living. We are living in fear as villagers," said Ms Zhou.

A neighbour to the Phiri's, Mr Alvert Sibanda (64), said his son was in hospital fighting for his life after suffering stab wounds.

"It's as if we are the ones who are on the wrong side of the law. When we go to the police, we don't get any help. They first ask what we did to them. We want Government to intervene, perhaps we can live peacefully in our area," said Mr Sibanda.

Another villager, Mr Austin Musarakufa said at night, some villagers slept in the fields afraid of another wave of attacks.

"Last night we didn't sleep a wink. Some of us slept in the fields away from our homes, afraid that these people will come back. I think we were about 10 people including men, women and children," said Mr Musarakufa.

National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi referred questions to Matabeleland South police spokesperson Inspector Loveness Mangena who was not reachable until the time of print.

Source - The Chronicle