MBERENGWA: There was chaos at Sandawana mine as thousands of artisanal miners bayed for the blood of Zimbabwe Miners Federation(ZMF) president Henrietta Rushwaya after they failed to agree on working conditions at the lithium extracting mine.
The artisanal miners had camped at Sandawana mine in Mberengwa West following the discovery of lithium at the now defunct emerald mine.
The government, however, stopped operations recently to pave way for formal mining with Rushwaya pledging to fight for artisanal miners to get some shares.
The plunder of the newly discovered mineral had seen artisanal miners from all corners of the country converging in Mberengwa with a tonne of lithium selling for a price between $140 and $150.
Rushwaya recently visited the artisanal miners and told them her organisation was in talks with the tribute owner to formalise mining.
Tempers, however, reportedly flared when Rushwaya who was having a meeting with the artisanal miners had to flee for cover as they threw stones at her and her team.
Rushwaya yesterday confirmed her aborted meeting with artisanal miners in Mberengwa but could not give further details as she said she was driving.
“I am driving and it’s raining here I will call you back for a comment,” she said.
Repeated efforts to get her comment were fruitless as she was not picking up calls later.
Chief Mahlebadza who also attended the abandoned meeting confirmed the commotion saying the violent artisanal miners were dispersed by anti-riot police who had to throw tear gases.
“The police responded swiftly and dispersed the youths and some artisanal miners who had turned violent using tear gas,” said the traditional leader
Sources said the artisanal miners were incited by a local businesswoman who also aspires to be a councillor, Advocate Patricia Shirichena.
Adv Shirichena, according to the source, accused Ms Rushwaya and her team of conducting underhand mining of lithium while the majority were denied entry into the mine.
“There is a local businesswoman who wants to be a councillor, she has been telling the artisanal miners that they were being denied entry into the mine but a few connected people continued to illegally mine the lithium.
Contacted for comment, Adv Shirichena said she was also a victim of the skirmishes that ensued at the meeting.
“It’s a lie, I also wanted to attend that meeting to hear what Ms Rushwaya wanted to tell us but I was late. When I arrived at the event, I was caught in the crossfire. I was also affected by the tear gas which was thrown by the police, I had to seek medication,” she said.
Adv Shirichena said Mberengwa villagers were worried by the continued extraction of lithium at the Sandawana mine despite the order by the government to stop operations.
“President Mnangagwa has reiterated that local people should benefit from local resources but our worry here is that people with connections have continued to mine lithium before smuggling the mineral to South Africa. We urgently seek government assistance on this matter,” she said.