By Daphine Zulu
The past months have seen the country experiencing an increase in gang violence incidences of criminals wielding machetes and attacking people, firstly in the country’s mining communities, and slowly cascading to the rest of the country, dubbed Mashurugwi.
Likewise, most of the country’s leading newspapers bearing horrific violent related headlines on these gangs - ‘Mashurugwi terror grips Zimbabwe’s gold rich areas’, ‘Mashurugwi gang-rapes 80-year-old Chegutu granny and 16-year old relative’, ‘Mashurugwi wreaks havoc at gigs’, 6 More ‘Mashurugwi’ Arrested For Murdering ZRP Cop After shoot-out With Police Officers’, among other such headlines; to the anguish of most Zimbabweans.
Mashurugwi, as they are commonly known are originally gold panning gangs armed with machetes; whose theory behind possessing these weapons being to protect themselves against rival gangs. And since the machete is believed to be an all-purpose tool usable even underground for digging, they purport to thus need it with them every time.
The name is believed to have been derived from Shurugwi, an epicentre for illegal gold panning in the country’s Midlands province. However as alluvial gold panning took root in areas around Gweru, Kwekwe, Mazowe, Esigodini, Bubi, with more mineral deposits being ‘discovered’ in the country, the nomadic miners have likewise taken their terror across the whole country.
‘MaShurugwi’ - a gang of violent, illegal panners – is doing its best to become Zimbabwe’s most brutal terror group. Last year alone, Kadoma District boost of a police record of 234 machete-related crimes, while neighbouring Chegutu had 125 similar cases having risen from 108 the previous year.
Armed with guns, spears, knobkerries and machetes, most of the marauders are reported to be already on the police wanted list for alleged rape, kidnapping and murder, among other such atrocities.
People living in communities surrounding Shurugwi and Zvishavane were among the first to venture into illegal gold panning during the early 1990s and likewise suffered at the hands of these barbarians. So what is it that we should do as ordinary citizens?
Whilst Government has floated the idea of a combined offensive made up of the police, the Judicial Service Commission, prosecuting authorities, mining companies and other relevant stakeholders as a concerted response, as well as mandatory sentences for those found with the lethal weapons, it is not enough to uproot this violent seed planted within us, all Zimbabweans have a part to play.
Generally, violence is a pervasive problem that undermines the physical, mental, and social health of individuals and communities and if these gangs are left to go rampant, this is but the beginning of terrorism in our country.
Research has proven that exposure to violence may lead to the intergenerational transmission of violence, or a “cycle of violence” where childhood experiences such as abuse and neglect can lead to later victimization, perpetration, or self-harm. Is this honestly what we want for future Zimbabwe?
Mashurugwi live among us, they interact with us, they are our ‘normal’ brothers in broad day light and yet become vampires at night – eating their own. As such if there are any people who can weed them out, it is us again, and not wait for the police to go head hunting on these criminals.
As such every Zimbabwean has a part to play to make communities governable again. The cowards are just hiding behind their fingers clothed in the darkness of the night and solidarity of a ‘fake’ brotherhood.
Whilst it’s easier to be ignorant and say I don't know about the problem. But once you know, once you've seen it then you have a responsibility to do something. There is strength in numbers, and if we all work together as a team, we can put an end to this madness.
When faced with violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, we need to be reminded that good outlives evil. We will win this war against anarchy.