and I missed the story due to the Asian internet being down (from the Taiwan earthquake cutting the undersea cable)..here it is from Strategy Page...
On December 29, 2006 the Zimbabwean government said its police had arrested 16,000 people for smuggling "precious minerals" and the crime of "illegal mining."
The "police sweep" began in November 2006. Yes, a lot of illegal jewel and gold smuggling goes on, but the arrests of 16,000 people suggests Mugabe's regime seized an opportunity to make a statement to the opposition....
So why question the operation? Because other sources have reported that impoverished Zimbabweans had turned to "panning for gold" as a means of supporting themselves.
This crackdown also followed the crack down against people accused of "hoarding" cash when Zimbabwe revalued its currency.
Another reason to believe the general "crack down" theory: On December 20, 2006, Mugabe said that his government will "crush" it opponents and dissenters.
The Zimbabwe military is also hassling private (non-state controlled) mobile phone companies. The Zimbabwean government essentially wants to monitor all international calls.
This goes along with my previous link to the gov't confiscating short wave radios from rural teachers, to keep them from learning news from alternative sources.