Criminalising A Livelihood: A Bittersweet Testimony
Photo by Mukasiri Sibanda
My name is Big Man (not real name), l was born on 21 June 1985. I was born in a very poor family in Mberengwa district, chief Mataka. I attended Chamakudo primary school and Funge secondary school. My O level results were very poor.
This could have been the result of poor attendance due to lack of school fees which l was not able to pay in time. I joined artisanal mining in 2004 at C mine area, Mberengwa where my brother was doing illegal gold panning. I joined him on this activity because by then l was self-sustaining and l had nothing to do except doing this gold panning.
Fortunately, God remembered me and l got some good quantities of gold. We used to do gold panning in the river and gold buyers would come and buy gold from us. By observing that, l envied how the buyers would smartly acquire gold without digging in the mud day and night.
I was then inspired to also try gold buying and l started from as little as 5 grams and sell it to those buyers. The business started growing slowly and in few months’ time l could buy an average of 50-60 grams.
However, in 2006 there was operation ‘chikorokoza chapera’ and l was arrested for illegally buying gold and all my money was taken. The matter went to court and it took several months until April 2007. In that month that is when Mr T (not real name), a Lawyer intervened. The people that l was arrested with were the buyers whom l was selling gold to, so they were able to pay the lawyer’s fee for him to process our case.
I got released and l was given back my money but by that time it was heavily affected by inflation to an extent that it could only afford to buy 0,8grams of gold hence, l was broke.
I moved to my rural home and started fishing. I then went back to the mining areas selling fish to the areas where gold panning was taking place and l started buying gold again. l decided to peg a mine to cover my gold buying in case of arrests.
I took this route because l did not know how and where to get a license for gold buying. l mined at my mine for one year and the mine yielded nothing so l forfeited it but I kept on buying and selling gold.
In the process, l interacted with some registered buyers from Zvishavane who helped me with their photocopied licenses which l would use to buy the gold for almost a year. I would buy gold and give it to the license holders to go and sell it to Fidelity Printers and Refinery (FPF).
In 2016, l was joined to Mr Bond (not real name)’ license and up to now l am using his license to buy gold. Currently, i have three claims of gold and one of chrome, but l am still facing challenges of getting a mine certificate and meeting Environment Management Agency requirements.