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Machete gangs resurface

by Staff reporter
28 Jun 2020 at 08:01hrs | Views
ARMED robbery cases involving machete-wielding gangs have resurfaced in Matabeleland South province, invoking memories of terror-filled moments linked to the thugs that traumatised communities.

The Covid-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdown had seen a drop in cases of violence and armed robberies at gold mines.

Artisanal miners have not been spared the vagaries of the Covid-19 extended lockdown, forcing many to trek back to the mines in search of the precious metal for survival.

However, it is all not rosy for the artisanal miners, commonly referred to as amakorokoza/otsheketsha, as when they try to evade police arrest, machete thugs are reported to be giving them headaches robbing them of their gold.

On Tuesday, suspected machete gangs struck at Bush Park 10 Mine in Colleen Bawn, Matabeleland South. According to the mine owner, Tichaona Muzenda, the attempted robbery was foiled by his axe-wielding workers who went on to effect a citizens' arrest on two of the members of the machete gangs.

"We suspect they were trying to steal gold ore andmoney,"Muzendasaidlastweek.

Two of the arrested suspects appeared in court and were remanded in custody until next week while the other suspects are still at large.

A fortnight ago, robbers pounced at Togotsweu Mine in Mangwe district, Matabeleland South, and attacked villagers before driving away with seven tonnes of gold ore.

The community-owned mine, which has been at the centre of a dispute since August last year, is under constant attack from criminals who steal gold ore.

Also in recent weeks, a seven-man machete gang struck at Goodcow Gold Mine in Maphisa, Matabeleland South, and made off with 12 x 50kg bags half-filled with gold ore.

Matabeleland South police spokesperson Philisani Ndebele confirmed the province had seen spates of robberies and violence at mines involving mainly machete gangs.

"We have isolated cases here and there, but they are not as rampant for now as they were before the lockdown period," Ndebele said on Wednesday in a telephone interview.

Police in the province imposed a ban on the carrying of machetes in the province following a crime wave that hit the country linked to machete terror gangs.

Police in the province first imposed a three month ban on the carrying of machetes, among other traditional weapons, in November last year.

The ban has been extended in terms of section 14 (4) of the Public Order and Security Act Chapter (11:17).

Failure to comply with the ban attracts a fine, six-month sentence or both.

The ban was imposed at a time when machetecarrying gangs were on the prowl, committing various acts of crime.

Analysts blame the chaos at the gold mining fields in the drought-prone province on Mines and Mining Development ministry officials.

"The fights over mining claims never end and the truth is that most of them are deliberately engineered by corrupt officers from the Ministry of Mines," argued commentator and small-scale miner Bekezela Maduma Fuzwayo.

"They do double allocations in order to give the claim to a person who bids highest to them. They also work with unscrupulous elements who when they hear that someone is making a killing in a claim approach the mines office to have the claim taken away and issued to them."

In recent months, there were reports of daring machete gangs invading a police station to force the release of their arrested colleagues.

In reaction, police have adopted a shoot-tokill policy, while the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Mining Development called for mandatory jail sentences against the machete gangs they said were now a danger to society.

Source - The Standard

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