By Lenah Matenderupi Nhewa
Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, who is reportedly fighting a turf war with President Emmerson Mnangagwa, has warned that the government will deal decisively with machete-wielding robbers notoriously known as Mashurugwi.
The criminally inclined artisanal miners, who constitute rotten apples amongst tens of thousands of law-abiding gold diggers, have engaged in acts of rape, robbery and murder to grab lucrative gold claims.
There is speculation that Zimbabwe’s state security apparatus has ignored the terror because the terrorists are allegedly handled by Minister of State Security, Owen “Mudha” Ncube, a well known Mnangagwa lackey.
Rumours suggest that until now, Chiwenga was not worried about the Mashurugwi operating in the Midlands where Mnangagwa is regarded as a regional godfather.
However, with the Mashurugwi invading Mashonaland West, to violently seize gold claims, Chiwenga has allegedly sprung into action. The retired army general has vowed to stop the gangs group from spreading terror in areas dominated by ethnic Zezurus.
“Chiwenga is making it look like he is responding to an appeal by Zimbabweans to stop the Mashurugwi terrorists but we know he is actually trying to stop Mnangagwa from spreading his political influence in areas he perceives as his own,” said a source who spoke to Nehanda Radio.
Chiwenga’s response comes as Zimbabweans have repeatedly implored the government to deploy the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) to protect miners, mining claims and communities surrounding mining areas.
At a National Day of Prayer, held in Harare over the weekend, Chiwenga told church leaders and multitudes of congregants that the government would mercilessly deal with machete-wielding gold panners and armed robbers.
“A united, prosperous, peaceful and secure Zimbabwe is achievable where people can freely worship and carry out their day-to-day activities with a sense of security and belonging.
“While government takes stern measures against those who disturb peace, security and the conduct of business, such as those machete-wielding gangsters and robbers who have emerged, prayers and evangelical crusades can also provide significant complementary support,” Chiwenga said.
Civil society has also implored the government to deploy the army to crush machete-wielding terrorists. Independent MP for Norton, Temba Mliswa has echoed similar sentiments stating that it was necessary to return the country to constitutionality.
“Section 213 of the Constitution talks about the involvement of the army in restoring law and order, but in this situation we have people dying and they (the government) are quiet,” said Mliswa recently.
However, it is Minister Ncube’s silence in the face of accusations of involvement in sponsoring Mashurugwi terror gangs in the Midlands, which prompted Mliswa to challenge the minister to clear his name.
“Why don’t you issue a statement and say I have been mentioned in this but I am not involved, anybody with evidence of my involvement must come forward.
“What has the national security done about this?” said Mliswa while referring to Minister Ncube.
Mliswa went on to say that “there are people who actually mention the president in this.”
“It’s the responsibility of the minister of State Security to protect the image of the president by confirming whether the president is involved or not.
“I am convinced that these criminals are working with law enforcement agents and it’s becoming very difficult to address their issue,” Mliswa added.
Despite the difficulty, Chiwenga has been credited with the recent crackdown on Mashurugwi machete-wielding terrorists across the country’s northern mineral-rich areas.
This crackdown has been seen as part of a broader fight to deal with growing indiscipline within the army and other state security sectors. Last year, at Battlefields in the Midlands, a policeman was killed by machete-wielding Mashurugwi.
Recently, police arrested three members of the Presidential Guard namely Blessmore Tembo (32), Gilbert Charuma (31) and Liberty Munemo (31) and a former Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation newsreader, Musorowegomo Mukosi (41) for allegedly attacking 15 villagers and attempting to grab Chin Gold Mine. All the four accused were remanded out of custody.
The arrest of these soldiers is not a first.
During the January 2019 some members of the Zimbabwe National Army were arrested for allegedly participating in the violence that ensued a peaceful Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions call for stayaway.
In another case of indiscipline, two soldiers were recently arrested in Bulawayo’s Central Business District on accusations of seizing goods belonging to vendors. Their matter is before a magistrate.
Last month, two senior soldiers from Llewellyn Barracks were arrested by villagers in Sigola after they were caught skinning a beast in a cattle kraal.
These and other misdemeanors have prompted Five Brigade, Major-General Hlanganani Dube to point out that the army is experiencing “an increase in the number of members involved in crimes committed both within and outside the organisation. Such acts of indiscipline must end immediately.”
Major-General Dube added that “severe punishments will always be applied for any deviation from our set standards.”
In November 2017 General Chiwenga led the military coup which ousted the late Robert Mugabe. Many Zimbabweans feel that Chiwenga would not have taken any action had the machete-wielding terrorists confined their grisly crimes to the Midlands where Zanu PF members revere Mnangagwa as a regional and political godfather. Nehanda Radio