GOLD panning may soon be legalised as the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development is exploring ways to amend the Mining Act. Addressing thousands of people who had gathered to witness the launch of the Gwanda Community Share Ownership
Scheme Trust in Colleen Bawn last Friday, Mines and Mining Development Minister Obert Mpofu, said gold panners, popularly known as amakorokoza, were heroes who deserved to be rewarded.
"Since January, three tonnes of gold has been delivered to the Treasury. Omakorokoza contributed one tonne of that gold, yet we arrest and chase them. It is my wish that even those who have been arrested for panning could be released from prison," said Minister Mpofu to wild applause from the crowd.
He said his ministry was looking at coming up with a new law that would allow gold panners to take their gold to police stations for safekeeping, if they were afraid of being robbed. Minister Mpofu said it was not proper for people in the region to applaud companies that had ceded 51 percent of their shares to indigenous communities as they were simply returning what they had stolen.
"What are we thanking? This is our property being returned and we clap until our fingers break. Why should we ask for claims from whites when everything is ours? We should just go out and take them.
"Tomorrow I am taking the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation to Vumbachikwe to show that we are serious," he said, in apparent reference to a company that has been mining in the area for more than 100 years, which refused to be part of the trust.
However, when President Mugabe stood to address the gathering he said when gold panning becomes legalised, panners should ensure that they protect the environment.
"Mpofu gave you the right to korokoza but let us do it properly. This is our country so we should not leave gullies everywhere or kill our rivers," said President Mugabe.
He said those interested in panning should get licenced to get Government assistance.
"Come and ask for permission and we shall grant you a licence or help you by giving you simple instruments to use so that your mining is done properly.
"We want to develop small scale enterprises in mining," he said.
President Mugabe said the law that called for the arrest of panners was unfair as it was a legacy of the racial colonial past.
"We inherited a law from the past that says we should not be found with gold, based purely on that gold is a national treasure that should be owned by the State.
"But for the State to have gold, some people should bring it to the State. People who bring it to the State should not be harassed, but assisted," said the President drawing applause from the big crowd.
He said people should only get arrested if they tried to smuggle the precious mineral out of the country.
Also speaking during the same occasion, Youth Development, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere said it was important to organise the country's youth and women and let them mine in accordance with Zimbabwean laws.
"We must legalise omakorokoza. I would like to thank Minister Mpofu for making the statement. It is a fact that many of our young people have been imprisoned because of gold," said Minister Kasukuwere.