Gold panners have reportedly taken over Esigodini town in Matabeleland South, raising concerns over the rise in criminal activities particularly murder which have escalated over the past few years.

The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC), following the murder of a 26-year-old man on Thursday evening, is now seeking to launch an investigation into the matter. The Commission also said it was concerned about similar developments in Gwanda.

The commission will be working in collaboration with human rights organisations and the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance to establish and possibly come up with a solution to the problem. NPRC Commissioner Leslie Ncube said it was imperative to look into the issue, as human lives were at stake and that the rise in murders in the towns had set a wrong precedence.

“We will leave no stones unturned as we look into this matter and we will be setting up committees that will be steered by community members as soon as this coming week to assist in carrying out investigations. This place is like a war zone and it is not within our culture to have people running around committing crimes of murder, let alone being lawless,” he said while addressing mourners yesterday at the funeral of Mr Nkosi Ndlela who was killed in cold blood in Esigodini by suspected panners, after he tried to protect his fiancée from being assaulted.

Commissioner Ncube said no one was above the law and has the right to behave like a demi-god.

“When you report a case to the the police they delay in attending to the scene. Take this incident for instance, our brother was murdered and it took them an hour to attend to the scene until the assailants made-off,” said a brother to the late Mr Ndlela, who preferred anonymity.

He said there were organised gangs that were running the town and community members were no longer safe in their own town. Some female mourners also expressed concern, that they no longer felt safe walking the streets even in broad daylight.

“These panners are daring. They indecently assault us and our children in broad day light. They even take baths stark naked, in full view of the public and they don’t care. There is so much lawlessness in this town and we ask the police to be firm.

When the same people break the law all the time, people start questioning why police are not arresting them,” said one woman.

Meanwhile, rival mining groups clashed at Vhovha Mine in Gwanda last week, resulting in the death of one person and injury of several others. Rival gangs attacked each other with machetes, axes, logs and stones in a suspected conflict over a mining claim. Eleven suspects appeared in court for murder and were remanded in custody to 24 October.

Speaking in an interview on Thursday after a meeting with the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance and various stakeholders, NPRC chairman, Commissioner Sello Nare said plans were underway to resolve disputes among mining communities in the province.

“One of our functions as a commission is to reconcile people. There were very disturbing incidents in Gwanda caused by tribal conflicts and they resulted in the death of a person and injury of several others. We decided to come to investigate what really transpired and to see what reconciliation we can bring to this area. Gwanda was known to be a peaceful place and it’s alarming that we have such violent incidents which have resulted in the loss of life. We are also working on what to do in order to ensure such incidents are not recorded in the future,” he said.

Comm Nare said they were in the process of compiling reports on the incident. He said there was no need for community members to fight over issues of resources. He urged miners to form consortiums to ensure that their operations are regularised.

Comm Nare urged miners from other provinces to desist from invading Matabeleland South Province and illegally occupying mines which belonged to locals as that was a source of tensions. Rival groups form alliances based on where they come from.

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