Parly, police up fight against machete gangs

Victor Maphosa in MAZOWE and Farirai Machivenyika in HARARE
As armed detachments of the Police Support Unit are flung into the battle to crush machete gangs, Parliament has launched an investigation to unearth the origins of the gangs, how they operate, their impact and how they can be tamed by police action and legal changes.

Machete gangs’ have wreaked havoc at gold mining sites across the country, causing deaths and injuries and threatening the entire gold mining industry, and have been moving into other violent crime in towns, cities and rural business centres.

While police deploy the muscle to crush the gangs, rounding up one major gang in Mazowe yesterday, legislators want longer-term solutions including the formalisation of the small-scale gold sectors and legal changes to bring in tougher penalties for those who operate outside the law.

The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Mining Development held an emergency meeting yesterday and decided on the probe with the preliminary list of those to be summoned to give evidence and advice including the Ministers of Mines and Mining Development (Winston Chitando), Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage (Kazembe Kazembe), Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs (Ziyambi Ziyambi), Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga and Prosecutor-General Kumbirai Hodzi.

Others expected to appear before the same committee include media executives and editors, traditional chiefs, civil society organisations, the Zimbabwe Miners Federation and the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission.

Yesterday, enhanced police operations scored a major success when the gang that has been occupying Jumbo Mine in Mazowe was rounded up with its explosives and equipment and the police promised more of these well-manned raids on gangs with armed detachments of the Police Support Unit deployed across Zimbabwe to back operations at provincial and district level against machete gangs.

In yesterday’s joint operation, 14 illegal miners were arrested at Jumbo Mine, with 11 machetes seized along with 423 sticks of explosives, four rows of copper wire and nine hammer mills.

The gang is believed to be one of those involved in the spate of increasingly violent criminal activities which rocked Mashonaland Central Province recently.