Deputy Mines minister Fred Moyo has been accused of concealing a fatal accident at his mine, delaying the rescue for two months.
Four illegal miners have been found dead, trapped under his Four Stampers Mine in Chegutu.
Chief Ngezi, under whose jurisdiction the mine lies, told the Daily News yesterday that he and his people had begun excavating the minister’s mine after realising that several people had been trapped underground.
It was feared more miners were trapped in dark tunnels far below the ground, in one of the worst mine disasters to hit Chegutu in recent years.
Rescue teams were struggling desperately to reach the trapped miners metres from the entrance of the mine shaft, while other villagers rushed to the scene from neighbouring areas to bolster the rescue effort.
“Our people have been saying that there are people trapped there and when we approached … Moyo, he was reluctant to have the case investigated, maybe because he felt that his name would be dragged into the mud,” Chief Ngezi said.
“But because of pressure from my people, we had to do it on our own and today (Thursday) we have managed to exhume one of the bodies and we have since alerted the police.
Moyo yesterday said: “Mine fatalities are dealt with by government inspectors in the province. Let the Mashonaland West government engineer respond to your questions.”
Chief Ngezi alleged further efforts by him and his people to engage Moyo’s nephews Edgar Mashange and Maribha Zhou, a former colonel in the Zimbabwe National Army, were met with insults.
“They did not listen to us when we told them there were people trapped underground. They did not even respect me as a chief as they insulted me each time I phoned them until I gave up.
“I later gave in to pressure from my people and we decided to seek help from Zimplats who gave us diesel and machinery to carry out the exhumation exercise that is currently underway.”
Some illegal miners who spoke on condition of anonymity alleged the illegal miners had been allowed to extract gold by Moyo for a fee, only for the deputy minister to order its closure after realising that some of them had been trapped underground.
“We were charged by the mine officials $50 per head each time we wanted to mine so while we were getting something out of it, the minister was fleecing us as well.
“Zhou was the one we dealt with but soon after the incident where some of us were trapped, they immediately closed the mine,” he said.
Four Stampers Mine is located around the Pickstone Mine area where several illegal miners died again recently after being trapped underground.