MATOBO – The Zimbabwe Republic Police’s Deputy Commissioner-General in charge of Operations, Stephen Mutamba, has been accused of unleashing a reign of terror on small-scale miners in Matobo, about 30 kilometers southwest of Zimbabwe’s second largest city of Bulawayo.
GCG Mutamba, a former Officer Commanding police in Bulawayo Province, runs Nugget Mine in Matobo under his company E & S Syndicate, a partnership with Emmanuel Sunduza, who is also a former member of Chipangano, a Zanu (PF) terror group which used to wreak havoc against opposition members in especially Harare.
Sunduza is now a member of the dreaded government spy agency, the Central Intelligence Organisation, which has since 1980 been transformed into an extension of the Zanu (PF) terror machinery alongside Zimbabwe’s uniformed forces.
According to some miners who run claims in the area, Mutamba’s company, which mines gold, installed three hammer mills at Nugget Mine last year and began to commandeer all gold ore mined in nearby claims to their mine for processing.
After milling, the miners are forced to sell their ore to E&S Syndicate at a rate of US$37/gram, US$8 less than it would fetch in Bulawayo.
“If you don’t comply, Sunduza cooks up allegations against you and makes a police report, knowing that Mutamba will act,” said one miner.
“Police are then ordered to arrest us or flush out those who are deemed to be stubborn. There have been several arrests, assaults and disappearances in the local mines and police have been responsible for that, being ordered by Mutamba.”
The small scale miners, who mine around Matopo Rock Motel, say they have tried to resist, but some of their colleagues have been kidnapped by state security agents at night and taken to Killarney, in Bulawayo, where they have been assaulted and left for dead.
“Sunduza usually comes here and fires several shots at the mines before kidnapped some guys, some of who have come back after weeks, beaten to pulps. Others have been taken and never been seen again. It is a massacre he is doing here and he gloats that there is nothing we can do to him,” said another small scale miner.
“This area has hundreds of deep disused mine shafts and we suspect that some of our colleagues have been killed and dumped there because those were some of the threats from Sunduza. We try to report all this to the local police at Matobo police station, but they all seem to be powerless because their commander is behind all this and protecting his partner.”
Among police officers leading Sunduza’s gang is one Bulawayo-based member of the Criminal Investigations Department called Givemore Marufu.
“Last year, police launched an operation in which they went mine by mine impounding hammer mills on the pretext that they don’t have proper papers, but the aim was to disarm everyone so that they end up taking their owe to E & S’s mining claim for milling,” said another miner.
“When people mill at your place, there is a huge benefit because the residue remains there, which you can process extract more gold. As for them there is double benefit because they force people to sell the processed gold to them at lower prices.”
A senor member of the CID Gold section in Bulawayo said there was a high chance that E & S was smuggling the gold outside Zimbabwe because there was no accountability at all, due to Mutamba’s high rank within the law-enforcement agency.
“No government department dares check the place or else you will be in trouble,” said the CID member.
“That Sunduza guy is a menace. He recently organised a meeting where he invited the top CID guy in Mat South. Since then, CID have been on their toes carrying out operation after operation. The objective is to find other claim owners on the wrong side. Thereafter, recommendations will be made for forfeiture of the claim. Once that happens, the E & S empire will expand because they will quickly process papers.”
Mutamba is said to have made some visits to the area, where Sunduza takes him around, showing him what he calls “hot spots” that need to be attacked by police.
“Once your claim posts good returns, it is targetted as a “hot spot”. We are very angry because this Sunduza is a tribalist who always gloats about his desire to dis-empower Ndebeles,” said another local miner.
“He always tells us that he can recommend to Mutamba that police should unleash a Marikana on us if we don’t want to bend to his demands. Every time he wants to demonstrate his power to us, he phones Mutamba and tells him that there are problems and it doesn’t take time before we are surrounded by the police, who throw teargas even into the mine shafts.”