BY SILAS NKALA
A GROUP of over 30 machete-wielding gang members have embarked on a reign of terror targeting businesspeople, gold miners, buyers and villagers in Matabeleland South’s Fort Rixon area, it has emerged.
Victims told Sunday Southern Eye that they were traumatised after being attacked by the thugs and police were yet to make any arrests despite several reports.
They claimed many business operators had since closed shops and fled the area fearing for their lives and those of their workers.
“There are some local thugs who have hired a group of over 30 machete gangs to terrorise people with businesses in this area. They also target miners and gold buyers,” said a businessman from the Claremont area.
“This intensified as from last week when the gang started raiding our shops and mining areas, attacking people and robbing them of their money and belongings using machetes.”
He alleged police were reluctant to deal with criminal activities in the area.
“People are attacked almost every day and they lose their property and money to these thugs,” added the businessman.
“These thugs have also damaged people’s cars and every day they patrol the area.
“As from 6pm no one moves around except them. Once you meet them at that time you are in trouble.”
He said he had to flee from the area to seek refuge in Bulawayo last Wednesday.
“Several people have fled the area,” the businessman said.
“The worrying part is that we have made several reports to the police, but when these thugs get arrested, the following day you see them back continuing with their terror activities.
“I have reported these things to Fort Rixon, Gwanda and even to Harare Police Headquarters, but what I have only received is just to ‘say noted.’
“We know the people who are using these thugs to terrorise us and we have told the police, but nothing is done to them.”
Another businesswoman operating a general dealer in the area said several people were injured when the thugs pounced on a commuter omnibus carrying people, attacking them, raping women and also robbing them of their belongings.
“There was horror here when the gang attacked the kombi crew, took women passengers, raped some and robbed people of their belongings. People are even afraid to report to the police,” she said.
“I am making efforts to take all my stock from here to Bulawayo. I cannot live in this area, it’s no longer safe.
“Several of the injured people were taken to hospital, but we understand no arrest has been made.”
One of the affected businesspeople at Claremont business centre, wrote to Police General Headquarters in Harare registering his concerns.
“There is a group of illegal gold miners, who have changed their trade from mining to robbers.
“There is no more movement from 6pm, because many people since last week are being attacked while walking.
“Without noticing, you see yourself being surrounded by unknown people,” reads the letter.
“People are being attacked with machetes every day by this group of terrorists.
“Personally, I saw 14 of them moving in groups armed with weapons during the day.
“A friend of mine was driving a Toyota Granvia last week when a group of unknown people pounced on him with machetes demanding money. Upon realising that he was in danger, he lost US$100 to them (sic).”
The businessman said his friend reported the matter at Fort Rixon Police station but up to now, no action had been taken.
“These terrorists are now in control at Claremont business centre and mines,” he said.
“They are disturbing mining operations. “As I speak, I was called to collect cash and goods from the shop because we can be raided at any time.”
Matabeleland South police spokesperson Chief Inspector Philisani Ndebele confirmed receiving an anonymous message from the area and indicated that a team of police officers had since been deployed to investigate the issue.
“As of now, we have not yet received any feedback from them,” Ndebele said.