THE harvesting of macadamia nuts has started, prompting criminal syndicates to invade Chipinge to steal the lucrative nuts for resale to buyers that flood the district each season.
The macadamia sector has for long been grappling with the twin evils of nuts theft and an exploitative marketing regime.
The nuts — though difficult to grow — are a major lifeline for over 400 farmers in Chipinge who account for about 9 000 hectares with capacity to produce more than 30 000 tonnes annually.
The growers have been experiencing daring thefts as criminals pounce on the plantations in broad daylight, armed with machetes, knives and logs.
This has prompted the growers to hit back resulting in several macadamia thieves being killed, and some injured, in the process.
Police should move in quickly to beef up security as macadamia nuts orchards remain under threat because the nuts are in demand from illegal buyers who have flooded the district.
We call on the police to be always on top of the game and arrest the suspects so that the situation does not degenerate into a mortal threat that is characteristic of what is happening in the mining sector where machete-wielding gangs had literally taken over everything and wreaking havoc.
In the past there was no law in place to control and regulate the marketing of the lucrative nuts and institute effective systems to control theft of the nuts.
After years of lobbying, Statutory Instrument 138 of 2019, Agricultural Marketing Authority (Macadamia Nuts) Regulations was gazatted last years, giving the police power to crack the whip on all those found illegally dealing in macadamia.
The law can only effectively plug loopholes troubling macadamia growers if the police and the courts are equal to the task.
SI 138 of 2019, among other things, controls and regulates the marketing of macadamia nuts and institutes effective systems to control theft of macadamia nuts.
All macadamia growers, processors or buyers must be registered, making it easy for law enforcement agents to arrest all those found in possession of the nuts without proper registration documents.
Police now have a legal basis to charge and pursue notorious criminals and ensure sanity prevails in the macadamia sector to allow farmers time to harvest, grade and sell their nuts without any hassles.
Thefts by their nature are both substantively and financially ruinous to the victim expecting a return on their investment.
The armed syndicates must be stopped at all costs.
To this end farmers should not just cry foul while sitting on their laurels.
They must also come up with joint initiatives and augment police efforts to reduce the thefts.
They should mobilise resources to capacitate police to patrol and attend to emergencies.
They should have trained armed guards manning their plantations 24/7.
We call upon the courts to impose longer prison time for convicted criminals. Convicted criminals must get mandatory maximum sentences.
The cases must be tried with urgency, and repeat offenders must be incarcerated for long periods to send a clear message to would- be offenders.
The law enforcement agencies must be tough, very tough, on these organised syndicates in order to flush them out of Chipinge.
We do not want machete-wielding gangs in Chipinge and Manicaland.
Police must be capacitated to specifically combat this violent crime.
They should be tough, smart and effective.