Norton’s tormented experience with illegal miners persists

Mary Mundeya

“Despite not having managed to proceed to secondary school like every other child, he never let his dream of having a better life die. Everyday, he would make sure that he found a piece job, and that would earn him a dollar or two.”

These are the words of Beauty Huma, aunt to the late 21-year-old Alexander Simba who was recently brutally murdered by a group of artisanal miners, in an incident that left that caused great fear in the community.

The rural parts of Norton in recent years have witnessed the growth of a growing community of artisanal miners who usually come into the urban parts for leisure activities. The miners have gained a reputation of engaging in acts of violence wherever they assemble.

In an interview, Huma said she was still to recover from the trauma caused by Alexander’s death and the manner in which he died.

“I am still yet to come to terms with the fact that Alexander died in such a way. It’s ironic that the previous day, he encouraged his friends to get home early, in case they would come across artisanal miner gangs that tend to assault anyone they meet as soon as it gets dark.

“By 6pm he was already home. He had his supper and relaxed in the room that he shares with his friend. I am torn apart that human beings murdered my son in cold blood like an animal. May God bless the perpetrators,” she said.

Asked about how he survived the brutal attack which led to Alexander’s demise, roommate and friend Tinaye Mukaru said the gang spared him after they had done a thorough search which showed that he didn’t have a mobile phone or cash.

“The gang forcefully got into the room that me and Alexander shared and demanded that we give them money which I told them I didn’t have any. Alexander refused to give them a small mobile phone which he had and told them that he had money which was in the next room and they pushed him there.

“One of the gang members remained behind and started beating me because I didn’t have anything of value to give them. Whilst I was being beaten, I could hear the other members beating Alexander who had also failed to give them the money he had promised was in the next room.

“They beat Alexander for a very long time and when they left, I rushed to our neighbors who helped me carry and put him to sleep in our room. When we woke up the following morning, Alexander had passed on,” Mukaru said.

Next door neighbor Eneresi Mposa spoke about how the community was now in fear of marauding gangs mostly of illegal miners.

“We are very much terrified by what happened to Alexander considering that the harassment of Norton residents has been gone on for sometime now. We have engaged the police countless times but safety and security remains weak,” she said.

Norton MP Themba Mliswa said he was equally concerned that matters of safety and security in the area were had not yet elicited the kind of response expected from authorities.

 “What happened to Alexander is so unfortunate. I don’t understand how some of these criminal elements who have prior murder charges that are currently before the courts are being given bail which is leading to them coming back to terrorize our communities.

“Most people who are coming to do artisanal mining here are coming from violence-prone places like Kwekwe where hijacking of mines and murder are the order of the day. No one is stopping them and it makes one wonder who they are connected to,” Mliswa said.

Police spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi they were still investigating the murder case.

“Investigations with regards to that murder case are still ongoing. What I can say for now is that the deceased was approached by the murderers who carried clubs not the usual machetes associated with illegal miner gangs. They asked him about a girlfriend and later on demanded money,” he said.