The Sunday Mail
Facts are and will always be stubborn.
Fact one, the people who led last week’s riots, particularly in Chitungwiza, were dominantly MDC Alliance youths.
Fact two, the youths are well known in the area; some for housebreaking, taking illegal drugs and menacing the commuting public through touting.
Fact three, most of them were said to have been taking cheap intoxicating substances threatening that there would be no peace until their mission was accomplished.
Fact four, unlike previous unsanctioned demonstrations where rioters moved in groups targeting Government linked properties in the city-centre, these hoodlums held fort in localised stations targeting even the general public and their businesses.
As a result, business people in Chitungwiza were left counting losses after a widely condemned looting spree that started on Monday afternoon and was contained after the intervention of the security forces just before dusk.
It was a tale of destruction that left supermarkets shattered, bars empty and even pharmacies robbed of precious medicines by violent protesters most of whom were putting on face masks in a bid to conceal their identities.
Despite rains on the day, looters pounced on OK Supermarket in the crime prone St Mary’s township, grabbing everything from toilet paper to bottles of alcohol while the more daring ones broke into the warehouse and went away with cartons of sugar, rice and soap.
Platinum Pharmacy which, before the rampage, was the major supplier of medicines in an area that is prone to communicable diseases, was grounded, leaving the owner only identified as a Mr Nhema, a devastated man.
The pharmacy resembled a deserted rural grinding mill, with shattered glasses strewn on floor while hundreds of syringes lay on the yard when The Sunday Mail visited St Mary’s in Chitungwiza last Wednesday afternoon.
The pharmacy owner was so traumatised he could not talk about his losses, but an assistant confided to us that the pharmacist would need tens of thousands of dollars to restock.
“They (looters) took literally everything including computers and cash registers.
“Drug abusers also looted the cough syrups like Histalix which is used as an intoxicating substance by youths,” said one eye witness.
The looting trail, which has been widely condemned by most Chitungwiza residents and the nation at large, spread across the dormitory town with Chitungwiza Town Centre, Makoni and Chikwanha shopping centres being the most hit.
The town’s most popular entertainment hub Tanza Centre was not spared. Manager Mr Richard Chibvongodze had a sad tale to tell.
“Over 200 looters armed with iron bars, some covering their faces with leaves besieged our premises and forced our main gate open on Monday afternoon.
“They started taking everything they could lay their hands on, they looted beer and expensive bottles of whiskey before smashing the plasma television sets.
“We lost stock worth over $12 000, a vehicle was destroyed and one of our guards also sustained serious injuries in the looting act that lasted almost 30 minutes.
“We have our suspects because some of the faces were identified and the matter is now being handled at Makoni Police Station,” said Mr Chibvongodze.
Supermarkets at Town Centre, Chitungwiza’s biggest shopping mall suffered a similar fate with Choppies the most affected.
The situation only returned to normal after the State deployed security forces across the town, but that was only after the looting spree had left scars most of which will take huge amounts of dollars to heal.
Most residents who spoke to The Sunday Mail condemned the acts of hooliganism that rocked Chitungwiza and urged police to bring the culprits to book.
“But why, surely why are they looting businesses?” questioned one elderly woman who refused to be named for fear of a backlash.
“Imagine how much it will cost these business people to replenish their stocks. Why Zimbabweans are now resorting to violence boggles the mind,” she added.
Police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said some of the looters had since been arrested, including one person captured on video while pushing a plough he stole from a hardware shop at Chitungwiza Town Centre.
“We know that some of these people are in the process of taking property to other places. We want to tell the members of the public that as security forces, we have set up security checkpoints where police officers and other security institutions will be checking for such properties, which were looted during this social unrest,” said Senior Assistant Commissioner Charamba.
She also appealed to members of the public to assist police with information to aid investigations.
“We are appealing to members of the public with any other information on people who have in their possession looted goods or property that they looted to report to the police.”
Police say over 700 people have been arrested countrywide in connection with the disturbances.