Sides of the highway leading to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s rural home have become a serious safety risk after hordes of illegal chrome miners invaded the area and are digging within seven metres of the road.
The danger is so serious that Environmental Management Agency (EMA) officials had to descend on the miners last week and 64 of them were issued with $2 000 tickets each and ordered to fill up the pits they dug by Tuesday next week.
The part of the road that is seriously affected is between Shurugwi and Zvishavane and this is the last stretch of the road to President Mnangagwa’s homestead.
Shurugwi District environmental officer Severino Kangara said in an interview with The Mirror that the illegal miners are putting the life of the President and the motoring public in great danger because of their digging and the activities have to be stopped with immediate effect.
He also said that Shurugwi – Zvishavane Highway was one of the important roads on the Zimbabwe road network.
However, Zanu PF district chairwoman for Shurugwi identified as Mai Manyuki said that the $2 000 ticket issued to the miners will be ignored and mining activities along Shurugwi – Zvishavane Highway will continue as usual.
She said everyone else in Zimbabwe was doing illegal mining and her group was no exception, adding that her group will only stop when everyone else is issued with a ticket.
“I am not going to accept your ticket or stop any operations, I will only do so if you arrest illegal miners, countrywide because just like me they are all operating without licences. Our party told us that our livelihoods are more important than any piece of paper, therefore I will not stop,” said Mai Manyuki.
There is an outcry from all sectors over the illegal mining activities along the road.
Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe spokesperson Tatenda Chinoda said such mining activities are in violation of the road safety requirements.
He said that all roads require wide shoulders for drivers to pull over if they have an emergency and added that in case of accidents cars that veer off the road are in danger of plunging into the dug-out pits.
“A proper road must have wide shoulders just in case the driver makes a mistake and needs to get out of the road. Uncontrolled mining activities like those ones pause serious danger to motorists and cars and busses can fall over with serious danger to human life,” said Chinoda.
“This road is key on the road network of Zimbabwe and we cannot let these miners destroy the road and the environment. They are putting road users lives at risk and it is also the same road that the President uses when he is going to his rural home,” said Kangara.
Martin Chiminya, a chrome mining community chair said that they did not know that what they were doing was illegal because they got the green light from a legitimate licence issuing committee.
“I did not know that this was against the law. We were given the green light to mine by an issuing committee, it is the one that allocated us areas to mine. It is true that we have dug close to the road but we did not know that this was illegal,” said Chiminya