The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) is on collision course with some gold miners in Banket who are operating on land declared unsuitable for mining.
The miners are operating close to a school and a church and are also conducting their activities in the middle of the town, prompting EMA to issue an order stopping their activities. The miners have defied the order, amid indications that they were being protected by some political figures in the district. They argue that it is their only source of income.
The mine is located in the middle of the town between St Andrews Anglican Church and Banket Primary School. It has been operating for close to six years since the first order was issued. Investigations by The Herald showed that Banket Town Board also wrote to the miners demanding that they stop their activities.
Their request for a special permit to operate at that place was also declined, with the Banket Town Board indicating that it is designated for a dumpsite . EMA Mashonaland West provincial information and publicity manager Munyaradzi Nhariswa said the place was declared illegal a long time ago, but they had continued operating illegally.
"The place is illegal and the previous group that was operating there were taken to court and fined. It seems there might be some underhand dealings as the law enforcement agencies are reluctant to act," he said.
A resident, Mr George Chitengu blamed the local authority for selective application of the law.
"What is surprising is that the police are just a stone's throw away from the illegal mine and the town board administrator also attends the church nearby. The mine is near a school and in plain sight. How it has remained operational is still a mystery," he said.
One of the miners, Stephen Zidana, vowed to remain at the mine, arguing that it was their only source of living.
"This is the only place where we can make ends meet, after all we are contributing to the national fiscus since we are selling the gold to Fidelity Printers. The place had been lying idle," he said.
Zidana offered to fill up the pits once they were done with their operations. Banket town board administrator Mrs Shelter Ngozo-Chapata confirmed being approached by the youths seeking a special permit. She said they turned down the request.