Guest Column: Learnmore Zuze
Any objective person in Zimbabwe should carry the conviction that Zimbabwean law enforcement agents are thorough; they are competent if not the best in southern Africa. As poorly resourced as they may be, these men and women have been able to crack the nut where necessary. The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) carries the respect of many in the word in the sense that where they have to do their work unimpeded, they crack mysteries. We all know how, liaising with their Mozambican counterparts, they subdued and hounded Zimbabwe’s most infamous criminals in the form of Stephen Chidhumo and Edgar Masendeke in the remotest parts of Mozambique. The antics of the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are a matter of record. The rebels in Mozambique have been kept at bay through army exploits at the Mozambique–Zimbabwe border. Back home, we have seen the ZRP, without leads, fishing out sophisticated criminals who had been terrorising residents in Domboshava.
It then befuddles the mind how the marauding influence of machete gangs has kept growing and their daring acts left unbridled. Much of last year was characterised by ludicrous acts of machete gangs commonly referred to as MaShurugwi.
The lawlessness perpetrated by these societal malcontents leaves one wondering whether this was taking place on a constitutional Zimbabwe or in some backwater country without an administration. On several occasions, these machete gangs have reportedly invaded hospitals to finish off their victims, sending health professionals scurrying for cover in different directions. The machete gangs have often invaded police stations and freed victims. Where does that happen in Zimbabwe? Are our law enforcers paralysed? Where is the law? How does this even happen?
The MaShurugwi danger, I believe, would be a forgotten phenomenon by now if, in all honesty, political 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 of society, go scot free.
It is evident that something does not add up in the whole mine terror gangs matter. The well-known Kwekwe case where machete-wielding people sent doctors and nurses scurrying for cover as the thugs 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 few arrests have been made, yet the media go to town daily about the machete gangs.
It inherently leads to an inescapable conclusion that these societal misfits may be operating under the shadow of some powerful individuals within society. How else can a lawful country explain this puzzle?
Unofficial figures confirm that these machete-wielding gangs operating in mafia-style have hacked hundreds of people to death with no consequence at all to them. The groups commonly known by 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 claims. 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 left injured. It is also well-known that the terror groups, in typical clandestine style of killer gangs, do not report deaths to the police.
Many relatives of victims can confirm the unavailability of accused persons in the cases involving these terrors 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.
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 to save lives.
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, well-known, for their heavy-handed approach, even on unarmed protesters, surely it cannot play second fiddle to machete-wielding thugs.
It leads to one inescapable conclusion that some elite groups could actually be protecting these groups. The elite groups somehow are the power behind these groups if not employers of these groups. Real action is needed, not cosmetic actions against terror gangs. The lawlessness has taken a shocking dimension and Zimbabwe must be saved.
Learnmore Zuze is a legal officer and writes here in his own capacity.