By Tinaani Nyabereka
Lower Gwelo- Villagers are in fear for their lives as Machete-wielding violence seems to be the order of the day following the sprouting of illegal gold panning activities all over the area.
Recently a surge in cases of machete attacks was recorded in the area as residents had also become victims of circumstances, it has been established. Community leaders and members drawn from marginalized communities who spoke during a Citizen Journalism training workshop at Makepesi Clinic last week said it was worrying to note how perpetrators of violence were walking scout free, soon after being arrested.
“We want the police and the courts to give us answers, we want to know what really transpires if a person is arrested and released especially looking at these machete-wielding mafias. Right now as am speaking to you we know of some people who are freely drinking beer after being released.
“Recently we saw an incident of a young man who was killed in our ward by these machete boys, At first the suspect got arrested and was released and now he is a free man. We then thought someone had been bribed since these panners have money. We no longer understand the purpose of the law or law enforcement agents in our communities.
“Another serious challenge is the late response of police to crime scenes. They will always cry about the lack of transport and resources. I recall another incident when a group of armed robbers broke into a nearby homestead and attacked people. We called the police but they didn’t respond, we went to the station and they told us to go back and only to come days after the incident.
“It seems to police now in our area is for cosmetic purposes in this rural setup. We don’t know how best we can be protected here in Lower Gwelo and if possible we request the presence of the Dispol and Commissioner General of Police to come and address us on issues affecting us,” he added.
A Ward 8 resident, Prescedis Nkomo said the perpetrators of most crimes were young people.
“We are saddened by the conduct of young people here as they no longer have respect for the elderly and the community youths are the ones involved in most criminal activities such as machete violence, armed robberies, and theft.
“We can no longer advise them as we fear retaliation. We need education for our children particularly those still at school to be taught the dangers of being involved in illegal panning. government must intervene.” she added.
Vungu RDC Ward 8, Councilor, Siphiwe Moyo said an increase in illegal panning were emanating from an escalation in the number of school dropouts.
“Mostly our children are the ones giving us a headache because they drop out of school and venture into illegal gold panning activities. It’s disturbing to see a child aged 14 -16 years going around with machetes.
“The biggest challenge is we can’t control them as they are into drugs and substance abuse. Some of them started drugs while at school and it’s now a problem for the community. Only the law can help us as a community.” she added
In January this year, ZRP launched the operation Isitsheketsha kasiphele/Chikorokoza ngachipere and no to machete gangs as an effort to deal with machete-wielding violence.
According to a police report dated 3 October 2021, about 97 people had since been arrested throughout the country for engaging in illegal gold panning, while two had been arrested for carrying dangerous weapons bringing the number to 99.
However cumulative arrests since the beginning of the operation targeting both illegal gold panners and people carrying dangerous weapons now stand at 49 906. #Women In News