Yoliswa Dube-Moyo, Matabeleland South Bureau Chief
“Intaba yeWest” or “Entabeni yegolide”, the soaring mountain with impervious vegetation along the Gwanda-Beitbridge highway in West Nicholson is not for the faint hearted.
From afar, the mountain looks like any other enormous hunk of land but there, lies mining operations which have over the years sustained livelihoods in the area and beyond.
The mining activities on this mountain are the heartbeat of West Nicholson as artisanal small scale miners registered under the Entabeni Mining Concession use pick and shovel to draw the precious yellow metal from the earth.
The locals however believe the tools of the trade alone are not all one needs to make rich pickings. Besides the agility to walk up the mountain in the sweltering West Nicholson heat, they say one needs a bit of muthi in order to make it.
Many spoke of a traditional healer who could tell how many years any artisanal small scale miner consulting him would be successful at the trade by using a chicken.
They said the healer would throw bits of food at the chicken and the number of bits the chicken would have eaten equals the number of years one would be successful at the game.
Others shared how they were given lucky charms and “spiritual water” to cleanse themselves whenever they go up the mountain.
“Mining is not for everyone. Many have tried to look for gold entabeni but they have failed because they don’t have the charms for it.
I know it’s difficult to believe but a lot of the miners making a killing out of this use muthi,” said Mr Isaac Nare, an elderly man from the area.
He said he has watched as some have lost a lot of money, even cars, while trying to invest in mining. “No matter how hard you try, you’ll keep on digging without luck as long as you don’t have a little something to help you along.
There are some big businesses in Gwanda that have been around and thriving for many years, it’s also believed it is because they have some charms on the side to help them along, everyone knows that,” said Mr Nare. Mr Mengezi Ndlovu, a small-scale miner operating from entabeni said his trade was a game of luck.
“A lot of people have tried to get into gold mining, but very few succeed at it. There are times when I can get gold worth about US$4 500 and other times just US$500 or less. Every day is different, every month is different.
But what I can tell you is that you have to have the knack for it and a bit of luck otherwise you’ll never succeed. A lot of people invest a lot of money in mining, but get nothing out of it and others are always getting rich pickings. It’s luck,” said Mr Ndlovu.
Weighing in on the aspect of luck and business, traditional healer Mr David Nduna Mlilo said good luck “runs in the blood”.
“Good luck runs in your blood, you either have it or you don’t. If you want an additional lucky charm, you can use the roots or barks of trees in water and bathe with the mixture,” he said.
The Entabeni Mining Concession has under it registered artisanal small scale miners looking for gold. At the foot of the mountain are makeshift shops selling food, cigarettes, drinks and airtime manned by enterprising women. Locals say the best place to set up a business is where small scale miners are operating as they are hefty spenders.
“I have been bringing clothes and shoes here for sale periodically and I never go back home with any stock. These miners are always ready to spend.
They get a lot of money sometimes and can afford to buy cars at any given time,” said Ms Shylet Mhari, who is based in Masvingo but visits West Nicholson to sell her wares.
However, not everyone on the mountain is a miner that goes into the shafts to dig out the precious metal. Some carry loads of ore in used cement bags on their shoulders ready to be transported to stamp mills.
Former Insiza South MP and businessman Mr Malachi Nkomo said some illegal gold miners had started causing havoc at the mine, disrupting operations that were being run by a white miner named Stalin.
“So Stalin approached me and proposed that I supervise operations on one side of the mountain while he continued mining on the other side.
His idea was that the locals should also benefit from mining on the mountain, but he wanted it to be done in an orderly manner to try and avoid a situation where it’s a free for all and omakorokoza end up fighting and killing one another over gold like it happens in other places such as Filabusi and Shurugwi,” said Mr Nkomo. He said their operations were registered with the mining regulatory authorities.
“A lot of people believe that gold mining is all about violence and shedding blood so I had to sit down with the artisanal miners and explain that at entabeni, we wanted to do things differently.
All of them are registered with us. We have their full details and we also work hand in hand with the police to weed out criminal elements who come here under the guise of mining.
Some of these guys are wanted criminals in other provinces for violence related crimes in gold mining and come here to evade arrest so we make sure that the police have access to everyone that works here,” said Mr Nkomo. He said the gold from the mountain goes to Fidelity Printers.
“We keep records of all the gold that is extracted from the mountain and sold to Fidelity Printers and I’m happy that we’re also contributing to the economy in our own small way.
The population of people looking for gold in this area could be 1 000-plus. The only challenge is the fighting that sometimes happens here. Gold mining has kept us going, but the cases of violence and other crimes wear us down sometimes,” he said.
West Nicholson has in recent times recorded a number of murder cases involving artisanal small scale miners. However, the area’s potential to grow cannot be understated as it provides a downstream chain which sustains itself
Mbembesi, a peri-urban centre located about 3km from the mountain, has attracted big businesses from Gwanda, the provincial capital.
The centre houses a filling station, clothing stores, butcheries, bottle stores, supermarkets and accommodation facilities, with the foundation for a restaurant already laid. – @Yolisswa
Article Source: The Chronicle