A call has been made by Harare residents urging authorities to slash maize plantations growing in open spaces that have since become sanctuaries for muggers and robbers.
However, police spokesperson Inspector James Sabau, told NewsDay that the police had instead come up with a campaign to alert residents on the dangers of using footpaths that run through the maize fields.
“We will not slash the fields, but we have launched an operation to warn people in different suburbs not to use the footpaths during the night. We are encouraging people to find alternative routes to avoid muggings and murder along these dangerous paths,” said Sabau.
The footpaths, which are common in high-density areas, become particularly dangerous this time of the year when maize plants cover the whole landscape.
Many residents complained that they had been forced into self-imposed curfews because of the dangers that were lurking in maize fields.
“I cannot go about freely in and around anymore. My wife, who is a member of an apostolic faith church, no longer attends evening church services and I have made it a point that all members of my family are home by six o’clock.
“Everyone should be indoors by that time,” said Clive Mpofu from Kuwadzana.
This is not fair at all as people have the right to freedom of movement.”
Last month, a young man was murdered in the Kuwadzana area by unknown assailants who had emerged from the thick maize fields.
In Epworth, four habitual robbers namely Okay Muuya, Portiphar Mandava, Milton Maphosa and Chakanetsa Kaitano, were last week sentenced to 16 years in prison by a Harare Magistrate, for unleashing terror in the area by waylaying their victims into the maize fields.
They were also convicted on four counts of armed robbery, which took place mostly along footpaths in Epworth. They were also yet to face two more counts of murder.
The absence of street lights in most high-density suburbs has been blamed for the spate of muggings and murder in these areas.