British Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Ms Melanie Robinson has commended Government for successfully taming machete-wielding gangs that had wreaked havoc in the country, especially in mining areas.
Mining communities around Zimbabwe were under siege from the marauding gangs that operated mainly in gold-rich districts unleashing violence on a scale never seen before.
From Mazowe in Mashonaland Central right through the Great Dyke in Midlands Province into Matabeleland South, gangs of men armed with machetes, axes, guns and other deadly weapons had been on a warpath, committing heinous crimes such as armed robbery and murder.
Small gold mines, gold buyers and stamp mills were their prime targets.
Parliament of Zimbabwe opened an inquiry to ascertain the root cause of the acts of violence perpetrated by the gangs following a petition by Women and Land in Zimbabwe.
The development saw Members of Parliament from the Parliamentary Portfolio Committees on Mines and Mining Development chaired by Shurugwi South MP Edmond Mkaratigwa and Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement, chaired by Mberengwa North MP Tafanana Zhou going on a fact-finding mission in areas such as Shurugwi which were under siege from these gangs.
Police responded by launching operations targeting the gangs and banned the carrying of dangerous weapons in public.
Arrests and convictions were made leading to the taming of the machete-wielding gangs.
Ms Robinson yesterday commended the Government, saying mines were also being protected from illegal invasions like what happened at Gaika Gold Fields in Kwekwe.
She was speaking during a courtesy call to the Minister of State for Midlands Provincial Affairs and Devolution Larry Mavima yesterday afternoon.
Ms Robinson said the country was endowed with rich mineral resources and if harnessed properly, could turn around the country’s economy.
She said she had also toured Bulawayo, Gwanda and Gweru.
“The mineral resource base especially here in the Midlands and Gwanda is incredible, what is only needed is more formal mining than artisanal type of mining. I would, however, like to commend you for managing to deal with the violent machete gangs which had been moving around committing crimes in the mining areas. The situation is now very calm and peaceful,” she said.
Ms Robison said there is a need to capacitate artisanal miners so that the country benefits from its mineral resources.
She said equipping and formalising artisanal mining will result in cutting down in leakages as the miners will be selling the gold through proper channels.
“This country is blessed with rich mineral deposits which can be the source of income for the youths and growth potential for the country.
The young people need to be formalised since they are doing illegal mining which results in the gold being sold outside the borders making the Government lose foreign currency. However, there is potential in the country (from the mining sector),” she said.
Ms Robison said there is also a need to work on the damage left by the miners.
Minister Mavima said Government had acted accordingly in stopping machete gangs so as to protect the people and fellow miners.
He said there were no sacred cows when it comes to policing and the rule of law in the country.
“An order was given to deal with machete gangs and there were no sacred cows because whoever was found on the wrong side of the law was arrested. Anyone found in possession of a machete, a gun or dangerous weapon in public was arrested for illegal possession. We also linked the database of gun owners and some were confiscated when the environment for possession of the gun was not the same that is in the licence. Roadblocks were put in place and that is how we managed the situation,” said Minister Mavima.
He said Government was working on setting up gold milling centres in all the districts so that the miners have places close to them to sell their gold.
Minister Mavima said there was also need to decentralise the offices of the Ministry of Mines and Mining development so that disputes are resolved on time to avoid squabbles or fights which lead to the damage of property and loss of human lives.
Cde Mkaratigwa said the report from the machete gang’s enquiry was due to be tabled in Parliament this month.
“We have, however, asked the petitioner (Women and Land in Zimbabwe) if there is need for further investigations since we have tamed machete gangs,” he said.