Villagers from Togotsweu in Plumtree are embroiled in a mining dispute with three women whom they accuse of duping them of their claim.
Venn Linos Tshuma, the village head, told CITE in an interview that the mineral was discovered by one of the villagers, Mathanzima Tshuma, in his field and they quickly moved to register the mining claim under the name Mjiki Family Mining Syndicate.
After the discovery, Tshuma said, the villagers came together raised ZAR45 000 and US$750 to fund the mine operation.
“We created a group of six people who would spearhead the project. While we were in the middle of processing our papers, a woman-Lucia Ndlovu-came to us and offered to help since she knew how mining operations are carried out,” narrated Tshuma.
“She became a new member of our group. Before long she appointed herself as the secretary of the group and automatically started going ahead of everyone as far as logistics were concerned. The next thing we knew she had registered the mine under her name.”
Tshuma said Ndlovu quickly discarded the villagers’ group and brought five of her friends, two women (Judith Mizha and Sicelo Siziba) and three males whose names were not supplied.
“These people she brought also produced paperwork to the effect that they were co-owners of the mine. They started exploiting cheap labour from some villagers who would agree to work for them,” he said.
Tshuma lamented that since the alleged hostile mine takeover, their lives have been affected.
He said efforts to seek assistance from the police have not yielded any positive results.
“They just dig around our homesteads and in our fields. Whenever we approach the police for assistance they tell us they do not have transport to come to our area. Funny enough when these six go to the police they get escorted to our area,” Tshuma claimed.
Tshuma said on Sunday, Ndlovu and her accomplices came to the village and called for a ‘meeting’.
He said when the villagers had gathered, two cops emerged and informed all the villagers that they had been arrested for defying a lockdown order by partaking in public gatherings.
“When the police told the people they had been arrested, some attempted to flee from the gathering. One officer who had a gun fired a warning shot. They thus rounded up 23 villagers. They took them to Mphoengs police station around 11 AM. The villagers were only taken to Plumtree town around midnight so that they could be taken to court in the morning,” narrated Tshuma.
“The villagers,” Tshuma added, “went to court but were subsequently dismissed after Ndlovu and her accomplices were a no show at the court.”
A follow up made by this publication with the Plumtree magistrate court established that the 23 villagers did appear in court on Monday, but were sent away with no record being opened against them.
According to some confidential documents seen by CITE, the mine produces an average of 90 grams of gold.
The document stated that this attracts greediness and corrupt practices hence there is a need to monitor what would have been pegged as well as what the surveyor and records officer establish.
Tshuma further noted that the villagers, under Mjiki Family Mining Syndicate, approached the High Court seeking an order to prohibit the invaders from mining and the court ruled in their favour.
The court order seen by this publication, cited one Judith Mizha, Lomile Investment, Ministry of Mines, and Sealskin Trading as respondents.
Tshuma said no matter how much they have tried to seek help, no one has assisted them in bringing Ndlovu and accomplices to comply with the High Court order.
Matabeleland South provincial police spokesperson Chief Inspector Philisani Ndebele told CITE that the police do not deal with mine disputes, citing that such matters are handled by the Ministry of Mines.