Cabinet this week resolved to unleash security forces to deal with the machete-wielding gangs terrorising communities across the country, killing hundreds of people.
The gangs, which have already been declared a serious security threat, are said to be using extreme violence to take over mining sites and sometimes steal gold ore from those already operating in gold mining areas along the Gemstone Belt.
A significant number of deaths have been reported in the mining areas while rape cases have also been on the increase.
It is suspected that some powerful politicians are sponsoring the notorious gangs. Recently, Home Affairs Minister Kazembe Kazembe warned the politicians that the law would be applied on everyone regardless of social standing. Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister, Monica Mutsvangwa said this week the security forces should bring to an end the “scourge”.
“The security sector is bided to urgently bring to an end the current scourge of violence by the unruly machete-wielding gangs and malcontents,” Mutsvangwa said at the post Cabinet media briefing on Tuesday.
A few years ago, the government relaxed gold mining laws giving way to massive gold digging across the country to allow unemployed people to work on small-scale mines around the country.
This resulted in the small scale and artisanal gold miners emerging as the cornerstone of the sector producing and delivering more gold than the larger-scale mining housed.
Over the past few years, the small scale miners have been producing close to 60% of total gold output, according to the Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe. Primary and secondary producers such as platinum group metals account for the balance.
Government has been supporting the small-scale and artisanal miners through various gold development facilities extended by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
There are over 4, 000 recorded gold deposits in Zimbabwe but currently, about 40% of these are being commercially worked on, according to official data Business Times obtained from the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development this week.
More than 90% of gold deposits in Zimbabwe are found in the Gemstone Belts. Gold has become one of Zimbabwe’s largest foreign currency earners, raking in billions of United States dollars in exports proceeds annually.
This has resulted in the rise of gang fights over the yellow metal threatening to destabilise the country. Hundreds of people have been killed in battles to control the gold mines.
Recently, Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi directed police “to shoot to kill” the violent gangs.
However, it appears the police have failed to control them. They have been accused of colluding with the gangs after receiving bribes.
The issue of the machete-wielding gang wars has also spilled into Senate. People in the mining areas are no longer going about their business freely fearing attacks from these gangs.
Chief Justice, Luke Malaba, also added his voice warning the machete-wielding gangs saying offenders face tougher sentences. Harsher prison sentencing, Malaba said will be a more fitting punishment that will keep communities safe from the criminals.
He said special courts have been set up to deal with criminals.