ZBC News Online

Illegal gold panning reaches alarming levels

Muddied prospectors pan for gold in Manica Province, near the Zimbabwe border, September 17, 2010. Hundreds of miners work in individual claims rented from local landowners. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic (MOZAMBIQUE - Tags: SOCIETY EMPLOYMENT BUSINESS)

Illegal gold panning in Zimbabwe has reached alarming levels in mining towns with many young inexperienced and untrained boys going underground in search of the yellow metal regardless of the dangers.

Many people have died in the process while others have lived to tell the tale.

His step resembles that of an old man, as he tries to balance himself dragging one foot after the other.

He has no lips, no teeth and has only half a tongue.

His face is distorted he struggles to shape his words and has to constantly wipe away spit with a towel hanging from his neck which has become a permanent feature on him for he cannot control it.

His name is Philimon Makusha and he is only 34 years old.

His is a sad story of an illegal gold panner or ‘amakorokoza’ as they are commonly known.

15 years ago when he was only 19, was involved in an accident while searching for gold underground in Venice Kadoma.

Some of his friends did not make it out of the tunnel, his other friend left an arm and he left half of his face underground.

Such is the life of ‘amakorokoza’ as they dice with death every day, handling explosives which require proper training, venturing into unknown places underground.

Illegal miners understand the risk that come with their trade yet again and again they return to work under the same conditions.

To them life is all about striking gold…but at what cost one cannot help but wonder.