By Mashudu Netsianda
At least 35 people were killed while 15 women were raped in the last 13 months by infamous machete wielding gangs commonly known as MaShurugwi, Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Deputy Minister Michael Madiro has said.
Speaking in the Senate during a Question and Answer session last week, Deputy Minister Madiro said machete-wielding gangs have become a problem across the country, attacking and robbing members of the public.
He said between January last year and last week, the criminal gangs had assaulted 382 people with 225 robberies having been recorded during the same period.
“Throughout the country, from January 2019 to date, a total of 35 murders, 225 robberies, 382 assaults and 15 rape cases were committed by machete-wielding gangsters.
“However, there are numerous ongoing measures in all the provinces aimed at containing violent crimes perpetrated by artisanal miners,” he said.
Out of the 35 murders, 20 occurred in Silobela in the Midlands province.
Cde Madiro, who was responding to legislators who had quizzed him on what police were doing to arrest the illegal gold panners’ menace, said police have stepped up efforts and launched a massive operation code named “Isitsheketsha kasiphele/Chikorokoza Ngachipere/ and No to Machete Gangs.”
“Isitsheketsha kasiphele/Chikorokoza Ngachipere and No to Machete Gangs, commenced on 14 January 2020 after resources for the first phase of the operation were made available. The operation is ongoing in all provinces and is aimed at arresting machete-wielding criminals,” he said.
The Deputy Minister said a National Task Force led by the ZRP Support Unit has since been set up, targeting one province at a time.
He said so far Mashonaland Central, Manicaland and Mashonaland East have been cleared of illegal panners in areas which were heavily concentrated.
Deputy Minister Madiro said from March 4, 2019 to date, 6 229 illegal artisanal miners and 1 922 offenders were arrested and either made to pay fines or referred to court for possessing dangerous weapons. He attributed the machete gang menace to lack of order within the country’s mines.
Cde Madiro said police are conducting spot checks to arrest people found with machetes, knives, iron bars and other dangerous weapons that can be used to murder, rob or harm innocent people.
Deputy Minister Madiro said police have issued prohibition orders against carrying dangerous weapons to curtail violent crimes.
He said Government was aware that illegal miners were not just harming citizens but the environment as well. The Chronicle