HARARE – Police have rounded-up suspected gang members and arrested scores of people in a crackdown on a spate of violent crime that has shocked the country.
Police intensified the nationwide anti-crime push this week in Mbare following a growing public outcry over lawlessness that for the past month has seen escalating robberies and theft.
The vast majority of crimes have gone unsolved.
The crackdown comes in the wake of the drama at Boris Mushonga’s funeral wake on Monday, as gunshots were fired at the late robber’s Mbare home.
The 23-year-old was one of five people killed in a horror crash on Thursday last week after their Toyota Raum was involved in a head-on collision with a Muzeya Bus near Zindoga Shopping Centre in Harare.
As people gathered to bid farewell to Mushonga in Rusike Street, mourners had to scurry for cover after police detectives fired warning shots as they tried to apprehend the alleged robber’s fleeing friends, who are also on the force’s wanted list for various crimes.
Police have staked out Mbare National in an escalating turf war with criminals as authorities enforce tough security laws.
Charity Charamba, the chief national police spokesperson, confirmed that suspects had been rounded up in the capital.
Police, who had staked out Boris’ wake to pounce on their targets, arrested nine suspected robbers at the funeral wake, believed to be Boris’ “workmates”.
The nine were said to be on the police “wanted list.”
Charamba said police were investigating the matter which led to the arrest and house search of nine people suspected to be gang members of the late Mushonga.
“Police have a right to carry out further investigations into the matter which they are doing,” Charamba said.
Police visited the suburb on Tuesday with the suspects and embarked on a house search of the nine suspects, reportedly trying to find some of the goods and money they believed Boris had left behind with his surviving members.
The Daily News visited Mbare yesterday morning and witnessed a tense atmosphere engulfing the suburb, with most youths uncomfortable speaking to strange people whom they suspected to be police detectives.
“We are not comfortable talking to strangers following what happened this week during Boris’s funeral,” said one youth who requested anonymity fearing victimisation.
“The police arrested some of our friends, who are still in their custody. They came back on Tuesday for a house-to-house search, wanting to clear up the suburb of people suspected to be associated with Boris.”
Charamba said: “I cannot confirm or deny that people who carried the raids were police officers, but police have the right to investigate issues everywhere a crime has been committed.
“We have powers to carry out investigations anywhere. People have nothing to complain about as we will be doing our duty.”
“Investigations are continuing and I need to check with the police in our offices whether there were police detectives who carried out the raid, but it is true that we have suspects whom we have arrested.”
Sources said since Monday, police have set up operation centres and targeted operations to probe the suspects, robbers’ nests and suspected drug traffickers. More suspects were targeted when police moved in on their hideouts in Mbare.
Known for its rampant crime, Mbare has experienced several of the recent muggings in public transport perpetrated by the gang, some in broad daylight.
Residents have complained for years about a perceived surge in burglaries, robberies, and purse-snatching.
But concerns have risen over the past month with a series of robberies in minibuses.
Officials said the top police hierarchy has called on police detectives to curb the “brazen” crimes.
The crackdown launched at the weekend in the capital includes increased searches and patrols to corral “suspicious” people.
The police administration — which set crime reduction as a key goal — says crime in the Christain-majority country has fallen sharply in the last two years because of their illustrious efforts.