The Sunday Mail
The violent makorokoza phenomenon that has hit this country over the last few years has in recent months reached alarming proportions that beckon for immediate action.
In The Sunday Mail edition of last week, we carried a story in our Society section that clearly illustrated how the machete-wielding illegal gold miners have now invaded Harare, having already done much damage in the Midlands province, Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland West and other parts of the country where gold has been found.
They seem unstoppable but we have confidence in the Government and other stakeholders’ ability to put a stop to the menace.
This week we received feedback that some of them have been spotted in Budiriro and Glen View at night, carrying the machetes that they have used to kill many people as they unleash a reign of terror in areas they invade.
Zimbabwe has, for more than a decade, faced challenges such as environmental degradation, prostitution and other crimes caused by the illegal gold panners but the new dimension of violence is something that should not be tolerated at all.
The President himself recently sent strong words of caution to these people but indications are that they have not taken heed.
People are said to be dying in their numbers at Jumbo Mine in Mazowe as we reported a fortnight ago, and many more have been reportedly killed by the “MaShurugwi”— as they are affectionately known in Kwekwe, Chegutu and gold-producing areas where violent clashes are the order of the day.
Zimbabwe has generally been known as a peace-loving nation, averse to violent behaviour let alone killing of fellow citizens.
It is thus worrying that the opposite now holds true, merely for the love of money as they fight over gold.
Is the mineral really worth killing each other for?
Of course, illegal gold mining has always attracted dubious characters who take the law into their own hands but efforts have been made previously to sanitise this constituency including a name-change from illegal gold panners to artisanal miners.
However, a large number of these have rebelled and are causing untold suffering to anyone who gets into their path.
We implore the police and other agents of peace and security to close in on the MaShurugwis to restore sanity.
And they need to move with haste to save lives.
Reports that they have begun to spill chemicals such as mercury into Lake Chivero send a chill down the spine as this poisons an already contaminated source of water for millions of people.
This demands action. We do not believe that the MaShurugwis cannot be tamed no matter how powerful physically they are said to be. But what we know for certain is that these people must not be allowed to traumatise society any day longer.
Small miners in the gold sector need to organise themselves well while proper operational and security systems must be put in place and adhered to, so as to rid the system of any loopholes and gaps that the MaShurugwis take advantage of as they harass people.
Reports from the police that a gang of 16 ran riot in Harare’s central business district on Friday night, beating up policemen and people going about their business also make sad reading.
The fact that the thugs also broke into shops, stealing cellphones and other wares smack of an “above-the-law” attitude that has no place in this country.
The law must be applied fear or favour to those caught in the act and the punishment must be severe enough to deter shenanigans of this nature. Over the last few weeks the CBD has become a dangerous place, particularly in the evenings as people knock off and look for transport to their respective homes.
Indeed, the riot act must be read and strategies employed to ensure that the city centre does not become a hotspot of violence and other criminal activities that violate people’s freedom of movement.
Zimbabwe has embarked on a solid campaign to attract investors, both foreign and local, and Harare is the face of the country that should be kept intact at all times.
Crime should not be allowed to steal the shine out of the city, barring the many other challenges it is grappling with.
Violence has no place in this country and this should be enforced and impressed upon its citizenry to restore that sanity and peace, tenets that this country is largely known for. Any barbaric acts should not be tolerated at all.