UNLICENSED gold miners in Zhombe, Midlands Province are unleashing violent youth gangs on each other, with local police and the community leaders admitting they are overwhelmed by the violence.
Local businesspeople and residents who spoke to Hourly Hits said they are terrified after the violence erupted near Empress Mine business centre on Sunday, less than 24 hours after Zhombe district police had adressed the community against machete violence.
In the violence that hit the area on Sunday, one victim had a spear piercing into his chest and he barely could breathe as he wobbled into a local hospital at Zhombe Growth Point (watch video in this article).
The victim, a resident of Bhamala Village some 15km from Empress Mine, was caught up on the violence as he and his syndicate fought a rival gang for the control of an unregistered gold claim, villagers say.
“Police and our traditional leader, Chief Samuel Samambwa, were here at the shops addressing the youths over the weekend,” a local trader narrated, constantly looking over her shoulder for fear of being identified.
She identified the spear victim as Newton, based at Empress Mine but originally from the Bhamala Village.
“The police had just left when we heard the gangs were strategically positioning themselves to raid an unlicensed gold claim at Sidakeni. It’s now a curse to have gold discovered inside your family yard because the violence these gangs can unleash on you is beyong imagination.”
A local ward Councillor who only agreed to speak on condition of anonymity confirmed the violence which rocked Empress Mine on Sunday through to Monday, but said the worry was that even the local leaders were overwhelmed.
“It’s a shame that as a Councillor, I am one of the leaders people look up to end this scourge, but I’d be dead the moment I utter a single word against these monsters,” said the Councillor. “They are a law unto themselves. The police here at Empress Mine are stoo scared to handle the thugs.
“We held a meeting with them and they openely indicated they would rather the issue be handled by police from the district offices as they feared their families would be attacked.”
The Councillor said the violent families are known and some of the gangsters have previously been arrested on violence and robbery charges. They however wrigglef their way out of police custody and are roaming the community, terrorizing the people.
So bad is the violence that bigger businesses are divesting out of Zhombe for fear of security of their staff and investments.
“We run a gold mill here but our security contractor has pulled out fearing for the safety of their workers,” a Chinese businessman told HourlyHits.
He added that even though their mill is a shouting distance from the police camp, security was not guaranteed.
“We came here to do business and help the community with jobs, technology, equipment and business. However, we are already contemplating to leave because our security and safety is not guaranteed. We have been attacked before.”
Simba* (not his real name), watched the armed gang preparing to attack his neighbour and packed his bag for Harare immediately.
“I had just come from the shops on Sunday late afternoon when I saw the marauding gangsters, some of whom I positively identified, taking strategic positions at my neighbour’s house,” said the 24-year-old.
Fearing the attacks might spill into his home, he begged a Harare relative to send him busfare and he left the place before sunset.
“The next morning, fellow villagers send gory images of bloody stained clothes of their loved ones after the midnight attacks. The gansters were armed with machetes, axes, hoe handles, spears and all assortment of weaponry.
“That is when that Newton guy was attacked. They apparently were trying to muscle out a family whose yard is believed to hold a gold claim.”
Watch the video below:
Police at Empress Mine base said while they have all details of the perpetrators of crime in the area, they too were not safe and felt probably the army would handle the gangsters.
“Look, this issue is beyond any of us here. Maybe the army could help, but certainly not any of us here,” said an officer who indicated she was unauthorized to offer media interviews.
Asked for the statistics of injuries and deaths in the community of 8,000 residents, the officer said they attend to a gangster violence case nearly every three days, and record at least one death a month.
Most of the injured melt away into society and do not want to report as they already are criminals too. In the case of the Sunday night violence, nearly all the injured have not presented themselves at police clinics, except for those in serious condition, locals said.
Midlands province have expressed concern over escalating criminal cases involving the usage of dangerous weapons such as machetes, knobkerries, swords, knives, spears or daggers and catapults among other traditional weapons.
Midlands Police spokesperson Emmanuel Mahoko’s phone went unanswered. The police in Gokwe and Kwekwe districts last week issued prohibition orders for the carrying of dangerous weapons in public areas.
“This is due to the increase of cases of violence,” Mahoko explained.
“The reason of these prohibition orders is to curb crimes of assaults, robbery, murder, rape and were carrying of weapons may be used in commission of crime.
“We are appealing to members of the community to comply with the order and to report all those they see in possession of any weapons at their nearest police station.”
In Gokwe, police chief superintendent Tsitsi Chikono issued a prohibition notice for areas under Gokwe district, running from 22 October 2021 to 19 January 2022, while chief superintendent Denford Maingire issued the notice for areas under Kwekwe district, covering period 18 October 2021 to 17 January 2022.
According to Section 4 of the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act Chapter 11:23, any person failing to comply with such a prohibition shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level 5 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or to both such a fine and imprisonment.
But for many here in Zhombe and surrounding areas where the violence is at the doorstep, the law is of no use. Mobs rule on a daily basis inspite of police presence. hourly hits