Ray Bande Senior Reporter
STATE-owned Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) has arrested 3 259 illegal diamond panners in Chiadzwa in the past year, a security official with the state owned mining firm has said.
In a security update presented to the all stakeholders diamond indaba at a Mutare hotel on Wednesday this week, ZCDC chief security officer Mr Elias Mvere said the illegal panners continue to be a threat to the national economy.
“Illegal diamond panners commonly referred to as gwejas remain a cause for concern to the operations of the ZCDC and continue being a threat to the national economy. The panners are operating from all bases on the mountains and some are offered rented accommodation by local villagers and shop owners.
“The intelligence we have suggests that the panners are being sponsored by illegal buyers and syndicate managers. In the last indaba, the security department noted that it had effected a total of 1 375 arrests. Notably, only 30 percent of those arrests were of individuals from Manicaland. Since then, the department has made a total of 3 259 arrests. Twnty-one percent of the arrests were illegal panners from outside Manicaland.
“This represents an increase in illegal panners arrest from the province. This highlights the need to further engage the local leadership so that cases of illegal panners can be eliminated. In spite of this, we greatly applaud the role that the kraalheads, headmen and chiefs have played in fostering dialogue between ZCDC and the local community,” he said.
Mr Mvere thanked members of the community around the mining area for assisting ZCDC in curbing illegal mining activities.
“We would like to applaud the community for their continued support which has helped us to thwart illegal panner intrusions through reliable and accurate information. Diamond ore areas identified with codes like RBZ and Ushonje raised a lot of interest from illegal panners. However, more often than not, the security reactions were able to counter these intrusions with the help of community members,” he added.
Issues relating to illegal diamond panners have been a borne of contention for mining companies in Marange since the discovery of the precious gems.