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Residents endure torrid nights as Illegal mining continues

21 Sep 2023

Widespread illegal mining mostly by foreign nationals in the little-known Patayamatebele in the North East district has brought fear to residents.

Situated 81 kilometres from the city of Francistown, Patayamatebele was once upon a time a beehive of Gold mining in Botswana and by extension Southern Africa.

This was before the Gold rush that saw miners abandoning the then-small settlement to South Africa in about 1886.

The rush to South Africa sacked life out of the traditional North Eastern Botswana settlement. The people’s hope was shattered instantly and the settlement was reduced to a ghost town.

Even the Roman Catholic Church that had set up in the area to provide spiritual solace left residents in the lurch.

This was after Khama the III also referred to as “Khama the Good’’ of the Bangwato reluctantly gave the Catholics the leeway to traverse further North into his territory to secure for themselves a place to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Kgosi Dick Moring said giving an account of the sorry state of affairs in his village that although the illegal mining act had at some point subsided, the illicit act has sky rocked yet again; a thing he said had stirred fear amongst his subjects.

“Around 2019/2020 efforts were made to rehabilitate the mines and that seemed to work but as we speak we see people entering our village and crossing the Shashe river to the other side of the village to engage in illegal mining,” he told BOPA in an interview.

The situation, he said, had become scary because livestock for the peasant community of Patayamatebele had gone missing and there was growing suspicion that they had been stolen by illegal miners.

He was unwavering that the only solution to this problem would be the deployment of security forces because the three police officers in the village had proven to be thin on the ground and not adequately resourced to deal with sophisticated illegal miners.

His sentiments were shared by Patayamatebele Village Chairperson, Mr Moesi Lekuni who revealed that the criminal syndicates in question were in groups of 60 to 70 men.

“As we speak I have seen some of them heading the way of the mines. You can easily identify them by the bags they carry on their backs,” he told BOPA adding that the illegal mining activities had soared since last year.

He relayed that even though there had been two groups of illegal miners that had been reported to the Tonota police, the situation had not slackened a bit.

“We have also learnt through the apprehended groups that these illegal miners are staying in Francistown where there is a lucrative market for Gold,” he further stated.

Area Community Development Officer, Ms Lucia Mokotedi gave this publication an account of how the police and the villagers nabbed 5 illegal miners, three Zimbabwean men and two Batswana women on August 24.

“They carry metal detectors in their mining. It’s a pity they use water from the river to clean the gold deposits salvaged from the area.

This poses a real danger to both people and livestock who use the same water from the Shashe River,” she said adding that the same river feeds the Dikgatlhong dam.

Likewise, Ms Mokotedi is convinced that the only panacea to illegal mining will be the mobilisation of the security agents “before it is too late”.

She and those at the helm of the village leadership are mulling coming up with a proposal to have mining rights conferred upon Patayamatebele Trust as another way to safeguard the affluence that could be used to help turn around the fortunes of the residents. ENDS

Source : BOPA

Author : Mooketsi Mojalemotho


Event : Interview

Date : 21 Sep 2023