By William Milasi
A traditional leader has said that life in the dusty, drought prone Silobela has become increasingly unbearable for the villagers after the closure of Peace Mine.
Midlands’s province has been ravaged by machete wars as rival gang members fight over turf.
The headman Mnethi Ndalitha Ndebele said that the closure of Peace Mine has had adverse effects on the community.
The leader who is also a headmaster at Sibangana Secondary School has said that life has become so unbearable for the villagers that the existence of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) has shored up enrolment in schools.
“If not for the presence of NGOs who are operating in the area I don’t think we were going to witness the enrolment of students that we currently have.”
“The closure of the mine has had adverse effects on the community that people are scrounging for a living,” he said.
Ndebele said that cases of school drop outs and teenage pregnancies has been on the rise.
“Cases of school drop outs are on the increase and that is very disturbing as our youths are being confined to the dustbins of hopelessness. The future is very bleak for the community. The closure of the mine saw an astronomical rise of machete wars as we have seen our youths being engaged in gold turf wars.
“The level of unemployment is very high in the community that our youths are now relying on gold panning for a living,” he said.
Paramount Silobela Chief Suprene Malisa has also said that machete wars has left a destructive wake in the community.
“Machetes have caused untold suffering in my community. We are just urging people to resolve their differences amicably.
“We don’t need this violence especially as we are approaching the national elections,” he said.
The situation is so dire in the community that children are now dropping out of school to be engaged in child prostitution.
Midlands Provincial Social Welfare Officer George Madzima has said that the province is currently home to 6000 prostitutes.
“Statistics has it that the total number of sex workers are well above 6221 persons in Midlands,” he said.
Peace Mine was closed after the local MP Mthokozisa Manoki Mpofu made several representations in parliament calling for its closure.
Mpofu raised the issue in the National Assembly in 2015 and asked the Minister of Mines and Mining Development Walter Chidhakwa to stop the alleged illegal mining activities which he said was taking place at the mine.
The legislator said that a lot of corrupt activities were going on at the mine with a few individuals benefitting.
“It is true that there is an unsustainable level of unemployment in Silobela. This is mainly caused by the fact that we rely on gold.
“Our greatest challenge in the sector was that the locals were not benefitting. People were coming from as far as Harare and Bulawayo to take our gold whilst the locals were not benefitting anything. That is why I lobbied in parliament to have operations at the mine suspended,” he said.
The Ministry of Mines and Mining Development issued a suspension order for the mine to cease operations on February 17, 2016.
Peace Mine which is owned by Silobela Community Development Trust made history by becoming the country’s first ever functional gold service centre.
A government initiative, gold service centres are aimed at boosting gold production and to curb leakages.
They are meant to formalise the artisanal miner and to promote self-reliance and beneficiation in the small scale gold mining sector.
Teams from 15 villages take turns to mine, take the ore to the mill, sell the output and share the proceeds, putting aside small percentage for both mine development and community projects.
The project started in 2014.