BY VUSINDLU MAPHOSA
Sibonile Khumalo is frustrated that authorities are failing to clamp down on violent crimes in Matabeleland South’s Insiza district.
Khumalo said the level of crime in the district, mostly attributed to artisanal miners, was worrying with police seemingly powerless.
Parts of Insiza district namely wards 1, 15, 16, 17, 18, and 19 have been rated as dangerous hotspots, villagers said.
Anglee C Xalang, Mahole, Nkankezi, Godlwayo, Fort Rixon and Makhandeni with business centres such as Peter, Matshologwani, Tsotsi, Salani, Khayanyama and Silalatshani are also notorious hotspots, they said.
“We are not safe, any time you can fall a victim of violent attacks by the machete gangs known as Mabhambadzi (terrorists) and some of them who are known members of the local community here in Insiza,” Khumalo said.
“Even if you are attacked and injured, a report to the police does not work.
“This is our life here in Insiza these days.”
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Concerned villagers attributed the violence to the abundance of vast gold deposits in the districts where gangs engage in fights for the control of gold claims.
Artisanal miners from other parts of the country have also thronged Insiza in an attempt to dig their way into riches, sparking turf wars.
Drug abuse and alcoholism have been cited as some of the drivers of violence.
“What worries me most is why are they not arrested? It’s either they are bribing the police to evade arrest or they are using muti to escape the wrath of the law,” Khumalo added.
“Police are seen patrolling these areas, but these violent gangs are not getting arrested, and are seen moving freely.”
Lot Sibanda, another villager, said the existence of terror gangs in the district is known to all villagers and law enforcement agents.
“Some time recently, a son of a known Ex Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) member was axed at Khayanyama business centre,” Sibanda said.
“My neighbour was raided on two separate occasions by these thugs who destroyed window panes at his home.
“Villagers are terrified because of these criminals.”
The villagers said they were being forced to carry traditional weapons such as axes and knobkerries to defend themselves from unprovoked attacks from the criminal gangs.
Stanford Mathuthu said villagers must complement the police in curbing the escalating crime rate that is scaring away potential investors, leading to lack of development.
“There is also a need for a massive recruitment of neighborhood watch committees,” Mathuthu said.
“Government should declare war against terrorists by launching an operation in all areas known for this notoriety.”
Chief Sibasa, born Bekezela Sibanda, said he had formed a task force to deal with the violent criminals.
“On December 23 we arrested two members of the gang and they are still in police cells, while their colleagues fled,” he said.
“They axed people at a local business centre.
“The problem is that some of the victims do not want to file police reports so that these criminals are taken to court and convicted.
“This then forces the police to end up releasing them and we cannot blame the police in this instance.”
Matabeleland South police spokesperson Inspector Loveness Mangena said they had not received formal reports about the violent gangs in Insiza.
“I have enquired with the officer in charge of Filabusi police and he says they have not yet received any formal report concerning the gangs,” Mangena said.
He urged victims to report to the police to weed out the criminals.
“We therefore urge the members of the public who are experiencing problems of these gangs to file reports at any nearest police station so that the suspects get arrested,” Mangena added.
* This article was originally published by The Citizen Bulletin, a nonprofit news organisation that produces hard-hitting, hyperlocal reporting and analysis for the southwestern region of Matabeleland