BY VENERANDA LANGA
OPPOSITION MPs yesterday alleged in Parliament that State Security minister Owen Ncube was the co-ordinator of the machete gangs, popularly known as MaShurugwi.
They said this as they grilled Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe, who had appeared before three Parliamentary Committees of Mines, Home Affairs and the Thematic Committee on Peace and Security to give oral evidence on the machete gangs menace, which has resulted in deaths of around 38 people.
Mufakose MP Susan Matsunga even suggested to Kazembe that the solution would be that President Emmerson Mnangagwa should pronounce “stop it” and the whole menace would immediately come to a halt.
Kazembe had told the committee chaired by Edmond Mkaratigwa that the violent gangs were well co-ordinated.
“Of great concern is the observation that these gangs have become more organised and the type of equipment they use shows that they are co-ordinated by people that are well financed,” Kazembe said.
This immediately stirred a hornet’s nest, with MDC Alliance MPs demanding that Kazembe should name the barons and politicians involved.
Magwegwe MP Anele Ndebele said: “Several media reports have alleged that the machete gangs are controlled by barons in the ruling party, but we have only seen arrests of mere panners, and it has taken 38 people to die for the police to take action. There were also operations by the police that targeted Morgan Tsvangirai House searching for machetes and we need to know what they found.”
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The question resulted in MPs from Zanu PF and MDC shouting at each other as those from the ruling party felt it was too political.
“As the Zimbabwe Republic Police, we are committed to ensuring there is law and order and we want to avoid hearsay, otherwise there will be a catch and release situation. Social media has caused a lot of harm to our people, yet not everything on social media is true. Most of these things are not true. They are meant to tarnish people’s image,” Kazembe responded.
But Harare Central MP Murisi Zwizwai and Highfield West legislator Happymore Chidziva asked Kazembe to explain why the police rushed to search Morgan Tsvangirai House for machetes when the epicentre was Midlands?
“In Marange, the MaShurugwi went there and then in Kwekwe, there were allegations that State Security minister Ncube co-ordinates the terror group Al-Shabaab, which is an acronym for MaShurugwi, to benefit the First Family (Mnangagwas),” Zwizwai said.
Midlands senator Morgan Komichi warned Kazembe that if the terror groups were not effectively dealt with, the conflict would degenerate into genocide like in Rwanda.
“They are highly co-ordinated and motivated and we see military intervention called for to disperse unarmed demonstrating youths, but here we have a well co-ordinated MaShurugwi and we think it is justified that Mnangagwa should deploy the army so that we unpack and get the name of the man co-ordinating MaShurugwi,” Komichi charged.
Murehwa East MP Nyikadzino Sewera (Zanu PF) said Kazembe must be wary that there might be people sponsoring these gangs for subversive purposes.
But Kazembe said if people had evidence on the gang leaders, then they should bring the evidence.
“We do not want to act on speculation just like what happened at (Morgan Tsvangirai) House, where there were allegations that there were machetes and you go there and find nothing. The allegations about the Minister of State Security (Ncube), if you have, we will be happy to receive evidence with the proof that he his involved. Otherwise we will not act on media reports,” Kazembe said.
Glen View South legislator Vincent Tsvangirai warned that these could be cartels operating at mining areas.
The minister told the committee that all was now under control, with three provinces — Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East and Manicaland — having been cleared of illegal panners. But MPs insisted that the epicentre was the Midlands province and that Kazembe should request the army to deal with the situation.
He told the committee that 1 410 accused persons for the machete violence were brought before the courts, and of these, 462 were convicted and 477 are on remand in custody, while 158 were convicted for prospecting without permits and sentenced to two years.
Two-hundred and seventy-four were convicted for criminal trespass and sentenced to between 21 and 100 days, while 423 accused paid deposit fines and there were 48 acquittals. He said 2 793 illegal structures put up by panners and vendors were destroyed.
National Prosecuting Authority acting prosecutor-general Nelson Mutsonziwa said most f the accused were serving prison sentences, but Highfield East MP Erick Murai said it was not justified that some people who committed murder were serving life or death sentences, while MaShurugwi, who murdered around 38 people, were walking away with two year sentences.