A cabinet minister, who has witnessed the deliberate burning of bush and trees by illegal gold panners, has warned of the severe damage being done to the environment and urged government to urgently introduce policies that create jobs and protect the environment.
Education Minister David Coltart told SW Radio Africa that he has seen hundreds of thousands of hectares of bush burned over the last three months, as he drives from Bulawayo to his office and cabinet meetings in Harare. The fires he saw were lit close to the road near Shangani.
The Minister stopped and spoke to some of the illegal panners on one occasion, and they told him that they were deliberately lighting fires to get rid of bush, grass and trees that get in the way of their metal detectors. They said a mini gold rush hit the area recently after deposits of alluvial gold were discovered.
allAfrica.com: Zimbabwe: Gold Panning Destroying Zimbabwe Environment