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Clampdown on ‘mabhemba’ falls short

corruptionwatch:WITH TAWANDA MAJONI

The police is working true to its recent word as we speak. It promised to “deal accordingly” with the marauding machete militias spreading mayhem in the informal (to read illegal) gold sector.

They started talking tough after the militias, whose godfathers are well-known by now, killed a cop in Kadoma last December. Livid with anger, police Commissioner General, Godwin Matanga, even promised to shoot the murderous miscreants on sight. That’s happening already. Thousands have been tossed into the cage and several hundreds taken to court, tried and convicted.

That looks like a nice job, hey? The fact is, it wouldn’t be a big deal if a million of those crooked lumpens were hauled over the coals and served to the devil. It’s such a horror thinking how the militias can do such levels of violence without as much as a little conscience. We have seen them hack people to death, cut their limbs off and rape women with crass impunity.

And it was always going to be bad news for them to murder a cop on duty and think they could get away with it. Back in the days, you wouldn’t even try thinking of spitting at a cop. It was treason. Now, these mud-ridden sons of swine — leave the pork and bacon out of it — have even had the bravado to raid police stations, and kill gunners too. They have pounced on hospitals, churches and what not. Who needs a second hell with such miscreants around?

Well, we have all been concentrating on the physical violence that the machete gangsters, misleadingly branded “Mashurugwi”, have been brewing. That’s understandable. But then, what about the economic violence? Do you know that they have been responsible for the smuggling of mega-millions worth of gold out of Zimbabwe? Do you know what that says? These very machete-totters who use poverty as an excuse to do violence are partly responsible for the national poverty that we are currently suffering. Of course, they get quick trinkets out of panning for gold and killing people, but that mustn’t turn them into saints. Of course, they have their godfathers — more about that later — but that can’t clean them of the bad name they carry with as much ease their machetes.

In there, you get a sense that the response by the police is timely and justified. The question, though, is: “Is what the police and other security units doing, through this clampdown, good enough?” As ever, it’s quite hard to be an optimist in Zimbabwe.

To start with, this is not the first time that we have seen such interventions by the law enforcers and security arms. Just under a year now, there was a joint police-army deployment in Mazowe, Shamva and other areas. The mission looked like a good decision until it fizzled out as fast as it had come. This particular deployment was made following a public outcry over the machete militias’ ravenous deeds.

And it seemed that, once the security agencies noticed people were satisfied with what they said they were doing, they quietly withdrew. In fact, stories were told of how the very soldiers and police details who had been deployed to quell the swelling wave of gold panning and the attendant violence quickly became part of the problem, taking off their fatigues and joining the very enemies they were supposed to fight. If that’s not mutiny, then say what it is.

Over the years, similarly sporadic raids have been made in Shurugwi’s Boterekwa, Chimanimani, Matabeleland, Kadoma, and so on. In the early years of the gold panning craze, the security details didn’t participate in the panning as we are seeing today. They just took the bribes and went to the next bar for a drink.

Now they take the bribes and then join the panners.

History is always a good point from which to start. Right now there is so much noise about the massive arrests at Jumbo Mine in Mashonaland Central. It’s ordinarily heartening to see such a thing happening. But the good news doesn’t stretch beyond that perception. Because history is whispering that the clampdown won’t last long enough.

And things are worse than that. Talking about Jumbo Mine where hundreds of the panners had converged, the rumour mill is already spinning. Fine, the police sealed off Good Hope Mine in Kadoma where the militias had killed Constable Hokoyo. But you will notice that most of their efforts got concentrated on Jumbo Mine. You would say that’s because, probably, that had become the epicentre of gold panning, some kind of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Put your ears against the wall and hear interesting things. It’s being said that, actually, the main reason why there is so much hullabaloo about Jumbo is that the son of a very, very big wig has developed a huge appetite for the dormant mine. If that is true, then God forbid! It takes us back to the issue godfathers and political sponsors of the machete violence.

It would mean that State resources, and that includes human resources, are being used to serve a few men’s dinner. But it does other things on us. It insults our conscience and makes us feel more miserable that we are, already. Besides the abuse of State resources, it leaves the chance that this very son of a political whale could have been sponsoring not only the panners, but the violence that is inevitably coming with the panning.

So, what we are seeing may not be what is there to see. It may mean that the political patrons of machete violence saw an opportunity in the death of Constable Hokoyo and, as has happened quite often in the past, are manipulating the security arms for selfish gain. The best thing for the authorities to do, then, is to replicate current efforts away from Jumbo, to Boterekwa, for example. There, there is no mine. If the police and other security arms carry out sustained clampdowns in such places, then they will gain the benefit of doubt.

The jumbo arrests and subsequent prosecutions are encouraging, but, again, more needs to be done. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of cases of machete murders, robberies, rape and assaults that have occurred in other parts of the country that the law enforcers failed to deal with. These must be acted on too, and with the zest and emotion that we have seen at Jumbo and in Mazowe of late.

l Tawanda Majoni is the Information for Development Trust (IDT) national coordinator and can be contacted on tmajoni@idt.org.zw

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