By Abigail Mawonde
Illegal gold panners armed with machetes, swords and a pistol went on the rampage in Silobela yesterday, savaging revellers and exchanging gunfire with the police in a case of violence which left one person dead and several others injured.
Police said while fights over gold claims were common in the Midlands Province, yesterday’s incident was deplorable.
National police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said: “The Zimbabwe Republic Police would like to condemn the deplorable conduct by armed criminals who attacked revellers at Springvest Night Club, Mahari Business Centre, Silobela.
“On July 7, 2017 at around 0100hours, a group of unruly criminals armed with a pistol, machetes, swords and catapults went on rampage assaulting people and police officers who tried to quell the violence.
“The gang resisted police authority when they were directed to lay down their weapons and went on to mobilise a group of about 50 people and started chanting slogans challenging the police and inciting others to be violent.”
Snr Asst Comm Charamba said police fired three warning shots, but the criminals were daring.
Police had to call for reinforcement as the criminals went on an all-out war with law enforcers.
They threw machetes and bottles at the police, injuring one.
“A shot was fired towards the police from one of the armed gang members and in the ensuing mayhem police officers exchanged fire with the gang and one of the criminals was shot. The gang immediately dispersed as they attempted to rescue their member who was injured in the shoot-out,” said Snr Asst Comm Charamba.
The man later died in hospital.
“The ZRP will not condone any violent behaviour from whatever section of society. We denounce violence in whatever forms and we will not stand akimbo when rogue elements terrorise innocent members of the society.
“We have a constitutional mandate to protect all citizens. We are fully aware of the disturbing trend occurring in mining areas where criminals have resorted to armed robbery, murder and of late even going to the extent of defying and resisting police orders.”
Snr Asst Comm Charamba said police were working with affected communities to educate, disarm and arrest offenders.
Police banned the carrying of weapons in public, but some people are violating the order.
“Incidentally, Silobela is one such area where the ban issued in terms of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) is still in effect.”
Snr Asst Comm Charamba said the criminals were known artisanal miners.
One has since been arrested.
“Two of the criminals Carlos Mathonsi and Sibangani Ngwenya are wanted persons for attempted murder and malicious damage to property, ZRP Silobela CR 19/06/17 refers.
“The gang is also wanted in connection with a case of malicious damage to property and assault after they stoned a house belonging to Honourable Manoki Mpofu, the Member of Parliament for Silobela and assaulted his security guard,” said Snr Asst Comm Charamba.
She urged the public to heed police orders.
“We are urging members of the public to heed calls by the police and desist from carrying offensive weapons and involving themselves in violent conduct.” The Herald