A special section of the police force is allegedly promoting lawlessness and corruption in gold-rich Penhalonga area by facilitating trading of illicit beer in backyard bars, popularly known as shebeens, 263Chat has learnt.
The shebeens have sprouted all over Mutasa District, albeit with the backing of senior cops from the Support Unit of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP).
263Chat sources said one of the popular joints is situated next to a Support Unit base at Old Mutare, as the illicit beer vendors are living in harmony with both the force and artisanal miners.
Acting Manicaland provincial police spokesperson assistant inspector Wiseman Chinyoka said no such reports have reached his office while urging the public to report such cases.
“No such reports have come to our attention as the police but we are also urging the people to report to our commanders so we can investigate.
“As police we are always geared to nip such illegal activities in the bud,” said Asst Insp Chinyoka.
Shebeen operators allegedly pay bribes to a top cop with a rank of Sergeant, through a local fixer, identified as Sonny Manyande, who has a shady history of crime and extortion.
Artisanal miners also make weekly payments as protection fee to the ZRP officers who boast of being untouchable report community members.
Whistleblowers have appealed to the Zimbabwe Anti Corruption Commission (ZACC) to investigate the syndicate, as they are fueling social unrest instigated by drunk artisanal miners.
“Police officers from Penhalonga are now working in fear as they can be attacked by these criminal Elements with the help of Support Unit guys. The area can be fully enforced by the station. The Support Unit is promoting corruption and no arrests,” said a well placed source.
The Center For Research and Development (CRD), a local natural resource governance monitor civic group, released a report profiling the unsustainable mining operations.
Findings of the research revealed that the illegal milling processes in Penhalonga are contaminating the environment through water and air pollution exposing over 20 000 residents and downstream communities to deadly toxins.
ZRP deployed the SU to beef up security in the area in 2019 when machete violence erupted across gold mining areas, including Odzi which is 20km outside the City of Mutare.
Penhalonga is already under siege from hordes of artisanal miners ravaging the previously controlled Metallon Gold subsidiary Redwing Mine.
Ownership wrangle of the area is already playing out in bizarre circumstances, pitting top politicians of the ruling ZANU PF.
Beneficial ownership secrecy of Prime Royal Africa, which obtained environmental clearance in dubious fashion, is given as evidence of political backing by local pressure groups.
Meanwhile, an ongoing research by CRD focusing on human rights impacts of gold mining operations around Penhalonga has unearthed uncontrolled use of mercury and cyanide in Penhalonga.
CRD Director James Mupfumi said most of chemicals used were seeping into community rivers and areas of human settlement around Penhalonga.
“During this exercise we established that the illegal millers were processing gold ore using mercury, cyanide and other toxic chemicals. We noticed that the milling sites were unprotected, exposing people and livestock to toxic chemicals..
“Our closer look at the milling sites showed toxic waste from makeshift ponds flowing into water streams. More so, contaminated soils around the milling plants were also transmitting toxins to the environment through soil erosion. We also observed that deadly chemicals from cyanidation tanks were also being released to the environment through vaporization,” says Mupfumi.