‘Machete killers have blessings of politicians’

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AMID growing concerns over the killings of civilians and rivals by machete-wielding gangs across the country, the MDC says there are strong suggestions that the barbaric machete killers are controlled by powerful politicians. As a result, tough-talking MDC vice president Tendai Biti told the Daily News On Sunday in an exclusive interview yesterday that authorities should establish a judicial commission of inquiry into the senseless killings which the opposition fears could soon lead to a full-bloodied genocide. This comes as Parliament has summoned all security sector ministers to establish the origins and extent of the menace — with robbers now lately also using their barbaric methods when invading people’s homes. At the same time, authorities have moved to ban the possession of machetes in the Midlands — although rights groups and fearful ordinary citizens want even tougher action, including a complete ban on all sales of the dangerous cleavers. Meanwhile, and amid the growing pressure on law enforcement agents to act mercilessly on the machete killers, the government has said that it will deny bail to those arrested for crimes associated with the menace, among a battery of proposed new measures meant to stop the ruffians in their tracks. Now, the main opposition MDC has added its voice to growing calls for the government to do more to reign in the maShurugwi, whose acts of terror have led to fears that the country’s gold output could soon be classified as blood bullion due to the on-going killings across mining belts. Biti told the Daily News On Sunday that there was now an urgent need for authorities to establish a judicial commission of inquiry — preferably led by a respected international judge — to probe the operations of machete gangs who have left a trail of blood and body bags in many mining towns around the country. He also said that there were lingering suspicions that the machete-wielding gangs have the blessings of political bigwigs. “There is need for an international judicial commission of enquiry into this matter. If we could have the Kgalema Motlanthe commission for the August 1, 2018 killings, then surely there should be scope for one to look into the maShurugwi issue as it is self-evident that people are dying every day at the hands of these gangsters.
“It is also clear that they are controlled by powerful people and the nation needs to understand more beyond the fact that they started in Kwekwe. “We thus need to know and understand the connections they have with political parties, as well as who the owners of the mines that are at the centre of the wars are,” Biti said. “The machete gangs’ agenda must also be established because some of us have a feeling that they are being prepared for a massive fresh Gukurahundi. “This is how genocide was carried out in Rwanda in 1994, starting with the Hutus of the Interahamwe. “More people have been killed by the gangsters than those killed on August 1, 2018. They are so brazen and one gets a feeling that they must be operating with the backing of a very big political office,” Biti added. “I mean, who can do what these people are doing, including killing a police officer? That doesn’t happen in Zimbabwe,” the in-your-face MDC vice president said further. He was referring to the recent death of a policeman — Constable Wonder Hokoyo — who was hacked to death in a grisly attack in Battlefields, Kadoma. Hokoyo, 27 — who was among a group of officers deployed to deal with illegal miners in the area — was chased and struck before being axed fatally by the machete killers on December 28. Apart from murdering Hokoyo, the marauding barbarians have also lately stormed police stations and forcibly tried to release some of their colleagues arrested for their dastardly acts. In the last two weeks, police have arrested, shot and killed some of the machete killers — including some of those alleged to have murdered Hokoyo. But the government dismissed Biti’s calls for the setting up of a judicial commission of inquiry yesterday — with Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi questioning the law that would be used to set up such a commission. He also dispelled claims that machete gangs had the backing of politicians. “Whoever knows the political connections or is connected to the machete gangs must just come forward and provide evidence … He who alleges must prove. “You cannot just walk around saying so and so is sponsoring the machete gangs without proof. There has to be proof for us to make that conclusion,” Ziyambi told the Daily News on Sunday. And as the growing reports of attacks by machete gangs continue to spread like wildfire across the country, there have also been allegations of some involvement of rogue soldiers in
the heinous acts. However, Ziyambi said the alleged involvement of soldiers also had no basis. “What we have are people who just wake up and make unsubstantiated claims. We have a professional army. “Of course there are one or two rogue elements, but we cannot use that to paint the whole army,” he said. But hardly a day passes without the country receiving information about attacks by machete gangs, with the menace now gallingly encroaching even into churches. Recently, five machete-wielding thugs ransacked a Zaoga church in Mkoba, Gweru — where they got away with money and valuables, prompting many independent observers to say that the situation has got out of hand. But Ziyambi insisted yesterday that the police were firmly in control of the situation. “I think the situation is now being controlled. We now have a number of arrests. I think those that are saying the situation is getting out of hand are not following the reports from the police relating to the arrests that have been made so far,” the Zvimba West legislator said. Alarmed by the growing incidents of killings by machete gangs, Parliament called for a probe into the activities of the menacing thugs last week. Mines parliamentary portfolio committee chairperson Edmond Mkaratigwa said he was shocked at the rate at which lives were being lost and the lawlessness prevailing in the mining industry. “The committee resolved to conduct an inquiry into the matter in order to identify and trace the foundations, origins and development of the gangs as well as to find out the socio-economic impact on gold production in light of the $12 billion target set for the mining industry by 2023,” he said. The Shurugwi South MP also said his committee would, beginning this week, start the process of information gathering which would include — among other things — establishing what government is doing to end the machete gang terrorism. His committee would also invite diverse stakeholders such as the police commissioner general, the National Prosecuting Authority, editors, traditional chiefs, the Zimbabwe Miners Federation and civil society organisations to the hearing. Towards the end of last year, police said they had arrested more than 1 500 illegal gold panners, in addition to nabbing 3 471 people who had been found in possession of machetes and other dangerous weapons around gold mining areas — following an operation to bring sanity in the country.

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