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MaShurugwi are mere peace loving hardworking mortals!

11 Oct 2019 at 15:23hrs | Views
In recent months our public media has been awash with stories of a group of artisanal miners by the name MaShurugwi, who for unfair reasons have come to be associated with a streak of cases of violence and murder, inclusive of other unpalatable ills.

It is also unfortunate that articles or statements said about this group of people in both mainstream and social media is laden with tribal overtones.
Some for political expedience have tried to politicise the life story of the MaShurugwi.

In all this unfolding tragic of the artisanal miners, what is sad, is that none of our esteemed investigative journalist have tried to unpack this phenomenon that has come to be known as MaShurugwi.  But instead some of them have been quick to feed into the narrative brandishing the grouping as rogue.

 This article firstly seeks to demonstrate that MaShurugwi indeed exists but are mere peace loving and hardworking mortals. They have since time immemorial known only one trade, gold mining and latter panning. A trade they have skilfully and passionately passed from generation to generation.

Secondly, it will demonstrate that MaShurugwi have over the past two decades turned into nomads all in search of the yellow stone as a result of circumstances beyond their control, and have never been violent nor do they import violence where they go.

Finally, the article will agree that there is violence in the artisanal mining spots, and primarily locating the source of that violence in the support service industry of artisanal miners not the miners themselves. This support service industry includes the gold buyers and those selling explosives and mercury.

The story of the MaShurugwi is embedded in the country's mineralisation and the historical land reform programme.

Let's start with Zimbabwe's mineralisation, paying particular attention to gold. Most of the gold if not all is found within the country's oldest rocks, the green stone belt which cuts across the heart of Zimbabwe.

According to our geological maps this belt starts from Mount Darwin, cutting through Mutorashanga, Shamva, then drifting into Mash West where we locate it in areas such as Chegutu and Kadoma.

From Mashonaland West, the belt then slices into the Midlands where it becomes a hit in Kwekwe, Shurugwi, Mberengwa and Zvishavane.

From the Midlands it meanders into Matebeleland South province where you have your Shangani, Filabusi and Gwanda. The story of these above named districts talks to the location of some of the old gold mining companies.

For the purposes of this article I will pick up a few; Blanket and Vumbachikwe (Gwanda) Shangani Mine (Shangani) Falcon Gold Mines (Shurugwi) Pickstone (Kadoma) Evington (Shamva). Most importantly, Kwekwe was home to the country's roasting plant.

Having displayed the spread of the big mines in Zimbabwe, the next vital point to unpack borders on the fate of the mine workers when the majority of the above named big mines ceased operations.

The majority of the Mberengwa, Kwekwe Mines shut down in 1998 following the closure of the Kwekwe roasting plant with the remainder following suit in 2000 at the inception of the historical land reform.

To be precise the Shurugwi Falcon Gold Mines that were owned by some Europeans and Canadians closed shop in 2000 as the owners fled the country at the peak of the Land Reform Programme. The same happened in Chegutu and Kadoma.

At the same time your Vumbachikwe Mine in Gwanda though it did not shut down, it started struggling.

With the mines now confirmed closed what then became of all the workers in these mines, who overnight in their huge numbers became jobless.

Since the closure of mines coincided with the land reform most miners in areas like Chegutu and Kadoma, where there were readily large swathe of arable land, the former mine workers simply switched to farming.

The story was different in Shurugwi, where arable land is scarce.
This marked the start of the life story of the MaShurugwi â€" the gold emigrants.
Read on.

This is the period, when for the first time, Zimbabwe saw the emergence of gold panning either in the old mine shafts or on river banks.

In other words this is the period that marked the official birth of Makorokoza, with Shurugwi being the epicentre of the action. This is not to say the practice was non-existent elsewhere in the country, but the action was more concentrated in Shurugwi.

As the former Shurugwi mine workers embarked on this new journey, with ear on the ground, they began to migrate to other towns and provinces in search of the precious yellow stone in the process earning the name MaShurugwi, for the prowess in the art of gold panning not these ills that have come to be associated with them.

In essence the MaShurugwi cyclone created a whole new industry that had no formal support system. The operations of the big mines starting from the mining itself to the selling of the stone was formalised.

The crumbling of the industry saw the collapse of the financial support service to the industry collapse.

Now the sudden rise of the MaShurugwi created a huge market of gold, thus indirectly facilitating for the emergence of another  informal financial support service epitomised by the gold buyers.

Gold buyers make up the mafia in the artisanal mining sector and to a less extent other service providers such as those that supply explosives. The gold buyers at all costs try and protect their territories which after taking over they guard jealously with the use of hired thugs or bouncers.

Some of these gold buyers who are known as "MaBozWel" in the local lingo are notorious for grabbing newly discovered gold pockets (usually found by MaShurugwi) through the use of their hired thugs. These are the people that have imported violence and all the ills today associated with artisanal mining.

For example the recent unfortunate spate of violence that occurred in Mazowe was not in anyway ignited by the MaShurugwi but the gold buyers who are known to the community of Concession some of which come from Harare.

It is the role of the community to report these gold buyers to the law enforcement agents.

At the level of the policy makers one hopes the formalisation of the artisanal miners, that goes with the establishment of gold buying and milling centres will kick out the rogue gold buyers and attendant miscreants in the system.

It is my fervent hope that through the formalisation process the MaShurugwi on their part will finally find a place where they call home and make their permanent settlement after 20 years of nomadic life.

Source - Sizalobuhle Khumalo
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