The farm, which was forcibly acquired by government from Gerry Heinz several years ago, is now said to be owned by a senior Chinhoyi police officer.
Illegal panners from as far as Guruve, Karoi, Kenzamba, Norton, Chegutu and, Kadoma have also swooped on the farm about 12km from Chinhoyi where they are now engaged in running battles with riot police almost on a daily basis.
Mashonaland West Provincial Police Spokesperson Inspector Clemence Mabweazara confirmed that three soldiers and two police officers were among the 71 illegal gold panners netted last Thursday.
“I can confirm that we arrested police officers and soldiers who were caught panning. We are moving in to restore order and anyone caught on the wrong side of the law will be arrested regardless of their position,” Mabweazara said.
Some of the panners complained that they were being harassed by corrupt politicians, police and army officers who were allegedly demanding protection fees from them.
One Chinhoyi resident alleged that plain clothes police and army officers were taking advantage of the situation by demanding US$2 per day from people who wanted to join in the illegal activity.
Zanu PF youths who joined the rush were demanding gold from other panners in a dog-eat-dog situation.
Vendors were also being forced to pay US$1 in order to be allowed to sell food and other goods to the illegal panners.
“They came and said that we have to pay them US$2 for us to pan for the gold,” said a Chinhoyi resident who refused to be identified fearing victimisation.
“They showed us their police identity cards. We were left with no option but to comply as we want to eke out a living from the gold find.”
Other panners also complained that armed police accompanied by dogs, were using excessive force during their frequent raids. There are unconfirmed reports that a woman and her child drowned while fleeing from the police.
One woman who escaped arrest by jumping into the river alleged that police indiscriminately beat up the illegal panners.
“Police came and threw teargas at people including those who were selling goods,” she said.
“Several people were injured. I only escaped by diving into the river. My chest is however now painful and I can no longer breathe properly.”
Locals have since renamed the area “Pahasha” following the discovery of the gold.
Recently gold was discovered in Kwekwe’s Sherwood Block prompting another gold rush by people mostly connected to Zanu PF.