guest column:Learnmore Zuze
THE spreading influence of terror gangs emerging from small mining towns like Shurugwi, Kadoma, Kwekwe and Bindura, among others, presents a conundrum in light of the fact that these terror groups have become the definition of law unto themselves. It is inescapable to conclude that the extremely powerful of society have a hand in these “official” murderers. One only gets to appreciate the magnitude of the crisis if they lose a loved one to these gangs and see them killing more the next day. Unofficial figures confirm that these machete-wielding gangs, operating in mafia-style, have hacked dozens of people to death with no consequence at all to them.
So self-assured are these gangs that incidents have been reported in Kwekwe, where they have pursued their victims right into hospital rooms to finish them off and life continues for them. The groups known by various code names like MaShurugwi or Mabhemba are neither alien people coming from some cryptic place to commit the heinous crimes as they defend their so-called territories nor some shadowy entity. They are well-known people within communities, who bewilderingly are feared and untouchable even in the wake of numerous murder cases ascribed to them. These groups are notorious for butchering each other as they fight for lucrative mining sites.
Of late, they have extended their unlawful activities to cowering of innocent citizens. The terror gangs last month invaded a public bar in Bindura and assaulted revellers, with some reportedly suffering substantial injuries. It is also well-known that the terror groups, in typical clandestine style of killer gangs, do not report deaths to the police. If they hack each other in these mining concerns, there is silence as to the cause of deaths.
While it was understandable that they would slay each other in the mines, it is worrisome that the groups are now coming for the common citizen.
Many relatives of victims can confirm the unavailability of accused persons in the cases involving these terror groups. It is incomprehensible how this phenomenon that seriously threatens national peace can continue unbridled. It is as if to say those in authority are not alive to the fact that citizens are being murdered in broad daylight and no meaningful action has been taken to urgently halt the senseless killings.
It further compounds the riddle that President Emmerson Mnangagwa himself, at one time, gave a stern warning against these machete-wielding gangs that have now invaded Harare, but clearly they did not take heed.
In essence, in the week succeeding the President’s warning, a case of the MaShurugwi violence was reported at a popular drinking spot. Why the government seems to be turning a blind eye to this urgent predicament is quite a mystery.
People are said to be dying in their numbers at Jumbo Mine in Mazowe and many more have reportedly been killed in these areas without any single arrest made. In any other jurisdiction, it would have been overwhelmingly urgent for the government to move in with haste to save lives.
While the State media has tried feebly to highlight the gangs and their illegal acts, it is apparent that the commitment to act against these groups is missing.
Reports that they have begun to spill chemicals such as mercury into Lake Chivero send a chill down the spine as this poisons an already contaminated source of water for millions of people.
The MaShurugwi groups have terrorised society for a long time now that, naturally, it makes sense to believe that there are elite people behind the defiance of the groups. How else can one explain the fact that well-known murderers can roam the streets freely in a supposed constitutional democracy?
Zimbabwe’s security forces are known for their heavy-handed approach, even on unarmed protesters, surely cannot play second fiddle to machete-wielding gangs.
The MaShurugwi danger, I believe, would be a forgotten phenomenon by now if, in all honesty, the commitment existed to end the menace. The army would have by now trampled the remnants of the evil practice, but as things stand, societies remain in palpable danger as these murderers, presumably protected by the powerful, go scot-free.
It is evident that something does not add up in the whole mining terror gangs matter. The well-known Kwekwe case where machete-wielding people sent doctors and nurses scurrying for cover as they searched for their victim has no known docket to date. One can choose to make a compilation of all the murder cases linked to the MaShurugwi gangs and clearly no single arrest was made, yet the newspapers daily go to town about the machete gangs.
It leads to one inescapable conclusion that some elite groups could actually be funding these groups and protecting them. The elite groups somehow are the power behind these groups if not employers of these groups. Real action is needed, not cosmetic actions against the terror gangs. The lawlessness has taken a shocking dimension and Zimbabwe must be saved.