GOVERNMENT says machete-wielding artisanal miners going by the moniker MaShurugwi, who are wreaking havoc in various mining towns around the country, are sponsored by wealthy individuals.
Giving oral evidence to the joint sitting of parliamentary portfolio committees on Mines and Mining Development and Defence as well as the thematic committee on Peace and Security yesterday, Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe said while he could not identify their financiers, the coordinated manner in which they operate points to that.
“We are concerned by the observation, the type of equipment they use and the way they operate suggest that they have sponsorship by people with financial muscle,” Kazembe said.
Pressed by the MDC MP for Harare Central Murisi Zwizwai to react to allegations that some ministers were funding the machete gangs, Kazembe challenged the legislator to bring the evidence forward.
When Zwizwai demanded that the police make its findings on the MDC headquarters raid last year to purportedly search for machetes, Kazembe admitted the authorities had acted on rumours.
“That is the reason why we are saying we do not want to act on speculation. We would rather have evidence. There must be irrefutable evidence after thorough investigations,” Kazembe said.
The minister was also grilled on why the police’s Operation Chikorokoza Ngachipere started with Manicaland, Mashonaland Central and East provinces instead of the Midlands Province where the gangs allegedly started.
However, Kazembe told the committees co-chaired by Levy Mayihlome, Edmond Mkaratigwa and David Parirenyatwa that the reason was strategic hence he was not at liberty to disclose it.
The minister also insisted there was no need for the deployment of the army to complement police efforts, saying they were on top of the situation after arresting over three thousand under the operation.
Kazembe revealed that the police had arrested 4 062 illegal miners since January while
1 832 were picked up for possession of dangerous weapons during the same period.
“But how do you say the police are on top of the situation when you told us that the thousands of artisanal miners arrested so far are being sponsored yet we do not have the number of the sponsors arrested,” Zanu PF MP for Chiredzi North Roy Bhila asked.
Mayihlome also accused the police of only deciding to act after the death of Constable Wonder Hokoyo, 27, who fell victim to the machete wars on December 28.
Mayihlome also put it to the minister that the reason why it took too long for the law enforcement agents to act on the gangs was they were benefitting from the chaos.
But Kazembe said the police were not adequately resourced to deal with the gangs when they started to cause havoc.