Zimbabwe: Machete Killings, Marauding Gold Panners Strike Fear in Kwekwe

Zimbabwe: Machete Killings, Marauding Gold Panners Strike Fear in Kwekwe

A week after witnessing a bloody fight between gold panners that saw one of them being hacked to death with a machete, Prudence Sibanda is still traumatised.

Sibanda (36), a vendor at the Kwekwe long distance bus terminus, said although violence was now common in the Midlands city's poor neighbourhoods, the brutal death of Comment Moyo had left her shaken.

"I was busy selling tomatoes here when suddenly we saw machetes flying all over the place as a group of gold panners attacked each other," Sibanda said, recounting an incident that raised alarm over the spiralling cases of gang violence rocking Kwekwe.

"I ran for cover, but one of my friends was not so lucky. Her leg was hit by a machete, which had been thrown by the now-deceased. She fell down.

"I could not help, but cry for help. Everyone was running. Police officers who were around ran away. The fight ended with the death of Moyo. It is a sad story."

According to Sibanda, the gold panners were fighting over a suspected prostitute.

On that day, Moyo (26), of Ngondoma village in Zhombe, became the latest victim of the gangs Kwekwe residents say have turned the city into a very dangerous place to live in.

"We live in fear," Sibanda added. "These gold panners are a menace.

"We cannot operate freely anymore. Each day we witness fights between the gold panners and in most cases they would be fighting over women or gold deals gone sour."

Kwekwe Central Member of Parliament Masango "Blackman" Matambanadzo last week claimed in the National Assembly that at least five people die daily in his constituency due to machete attacks.

"In my constituency, at least three to five people are murdered every day," he said in a question directed to Home Affairs minister Cain Mathema.

"They have gone to the extent of murdering their own wives in their homes.

"What does the law say because even during the time of former president RG Mugabe it has been happening (sic)?

"Why can you not stop this?"

Matambanadzo's sentiments that the authorities have failed to rein in the marauding gangs are shared by Sibanda.

"The police have let us down on this issue. It seems it has now gone beyond them," she said.

"The problem is that these gold panners are runners for some senior politicians and they seem very powerful such that whenever one of them is arrested for violence, they are released immediately."

She said other criminals were now hiding behind the gold panning syndicates to commit crimes with impunity.

"There are gangs of people who attack and rob people," Sibanda said.

"Some of them are actually miners, but they have become so powerful that at times police are not able to contain them.

"It is a war down there in the shafts (at illegal gold mines).

"Some of these wars can be traced back to rivalry among politicians and people bring them here in the process endangering innocent people's lives."

The vendors said fights between rival gangs were now a daily event especially at the bus rank and police officers often found themselves being bystanders.

"Yesterday (Thursday) we witnessed another bloody fight here involving gold panners," Sibanda said.

"However, this time around, they did not use machetes, but stones and we had to run for cover."

Matambanadzo told The Standard that the government needed to intervene urgently to stop the bloodletting.

"People are being killed and we have many who are dying because the authorities do not care," he said. "We now suspect that these killings are politically motivated and that some people are benefiting from this lawlessness."

The former Zanu PF MP named three families in Mbizo 15 that recently lost relatives in the machete attacks.

A widow of one of the victims killed two months ago was too scared to talk about their bereavement and ordered our news crew to leave the house when she was asked about the incident.

"These people are too powerful and merciless," she said.

"I don't want you to take a picture of me or you to reveal my name in the paper.

"If you try it, I swear I will be dead by sunset. They don't want anyone to talk about them".

Last year when President Emmerson Mnangagwa was briefly expelled from government, Zanu PF officials in the Midlands accused him of controlling one of the terror gangs in the city known as Al Shabab.

The group is notorious for violent crimes that include the victimisation of opposition supporters.

Some Zanu PF bigwigs are allegedly behind the violent gangs that control the illegal mining sites on the outskirts of the city.

Former Mbizvo MP Vongaishe Mupereri was last year ordered to vacate one of the gold-rich mines in Kwekwe -- Gaika -- which is allegedly the scene of some of the most gruesome machete murders.

Mupereri had grabbed the mine from its owners and opened it up to Zanu PF youths.

But Midlands's Provincial Affairs minister Larry Mavima said the machete killings had nothing to do with politics.

"At times we don't need to exaggerate things or see political shadows in these things," he said.

"These are purely criminal matters, which we are dealing with as the leadership

"It is not like the province has become a war zone, no, we have a few criminal elements doing that.

"We are on it and we shall find a solution. I appeal to our people to work with the police to deal with these criminal elements who are disturbing our peace."

Kwekwe district police spokesperson Assistant Inspector Nduna referred questions to acting Midlands spokesperson Assistant Inspector Ethel Mukwende.

Mukwende demanded that the questions should be put in writing, but had not responded by the time of going to print.


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Publish date : 2018-10-08 14:11:39
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