By Leopold Munhende, recently in Zvishavane
“We have seen people being hacked to death during minor disputes over beer, something which you would think could be solved by a simple sorry.”
These are words by a frightened Zvishavane woman who has witnessed the dastardly acts by machete wielding bandits who have caused terror in the tiny mining town and its surrounding areas.
She is among residents who live in the perpetual fear of attacks by the lawless gangs.
The bandits are found among small scale miners, artisanal miners and panners commonly referred to as makorokoza.
Tales of their violent acts and murders have sent shock waves in Midlands.
Some residents who spoke to NewZimbabwe.com recently said the bandits are found in bars, along streets and even at football stadiums.
“This is something you can never get used to and it is something even the police cannot address because these people are very violent. I do not think they even believe in ngozi (avenging spirits),” said one Tendai Karimi from Mandava suburb in Zvishavane.
“Most of them are from outside Zvishavane, Shurugwi and areas surrounding Gweru.
“No one can tell you the number of murders they have committed my brother. They are everywhere, be it bars, football stadiums or on the roads.
“You just have to be careful in your selection of words during your conversations in public because anyone can have a machete in this town.”
Karimi declined to have his picture taken for fear of victimisation.
A visit to Zvishavane night spots, one could feel the tense atmosphere around.
But the spirit remains strong among some residents who have developed thick skins in the constant aura of death.
“If I think too much of the danger we are constantly putting ourselves in, then I will not be able to take care of my family.
“We have seen people being hacked to death during minor disputes over beer, something which you would think could be solved by a simple sorry,” said one female resident.
“These people who go around with machetes are not only threatening our safety but our children are also fast adopting some of their traits and before we know it, we would have become a violent society.”
Venturing into territories captured by gold panners is next to committing oneself to imminent death.
Tales abound of how the panners do not hesitate to chop each other down on disputes involving mining claims, jealousy when one hits a “score” and clashes over sex workers.
Some of the most deadly gangs operate in the Kwekwe and Kadoma areas.
Some top Zanu PF officials with mining interests in the area have had their names featuring among the Godfathers of some terror groups.
Police recently admitted they were struggling to contain crimes associated with artisanal miners in the mineral rich province.
“Violence perpetrated by illegal gold miners is on the surge, the province recorded 7 801 cases for the period January to June 2018 as compared to 6 965 cases recorded during the same period last year in 2017 translating to 12 percent increase,” said Assistant Commissioner Charles Ndoro recently.
Added the acting officer commanding Midlands province, “We have put in place strategies to curb the increase in these crimes of concern during the second half of the year 2018 in an endeavour to reduce fear of crime among our citizens.”
Briefing parliament recently, Mines Deputy Minister Mike Madiro said Machete wars in the mining town of Kwekwe have claimed 14 lives and left 101 injured since January 2017.
Madiro said drug abuse contributed to the savage lifestyles.