HARARE – On Friday, President Robert Mugabe spoke for the first time on the emergence of terror groups that have brought horror to a number of communities that are now living in constant fear of being harangued by these marauding gangs.
As the country’s election-weary citizens tiptoe towards crucial elections next year, opportunists are on the prowl; exploiting every little avenue available for them to make money, including resorting to crime.
Statistics from the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) indicate that crime has been on the rise, and this is hardly surprising. Unemployment is presenting a major headache to the authorities, who had hoped to create 2,2 million jobs on the strength of the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation — a fantastic economic blueprint that has joined the long list of several other high-sounding documents that could not be implemented for lack of political will.
The formal jobs that the authorities had envisaged to create have not been forthcoming since Mugabe constituted his new government in 2013 because industry has been unable to hold out against the vicious kicks of a dying economy that has bundled its victims into the informal sector, where conditions are dire.
Because the ruling party tends to tolerate criminals within its rank and file, who act with impunity, communities are witnessing an upsurge in groups that are fooling themselves into thinking that they can escape the poverty trap by committing their shenanigans under Zanu PF’s cover.
As has happened in previous elections, the 2018 polls have opened a window of opportunity for outlaws who want to make a killing using the name of Zanu PF hence the proliferation of terror groups that are extorting money from traders and persecuting supporters and officials of opposition parties.
One such group is Chipangano, which operates from Mbare. The group is running amok in Harare’s oldest high density suburb, ruthlessly dealing with residents and members of the opposition.
In Kwekwe, there is another terror group called “Al-Shabaab” which derives its name from the Somalia-based terrorist affiliate of al-Qaeda fighting to turn the country into a fundamentalist Islamic State, Al-Shabaab.
“Al-Shabaab”, is also hiding behind the banner of the ruling party and its members are making money from intimidating Zanu PF’s rivals.
In the past, Zanu PF has rarely condemned these terror groups hence the perception that they are an extension of its coercive machinery, let loose in the run-up to major elections.
Until the long arm of the law catches up with them, this perception shall remain and the record speaks for itself.
In the 2008 elections, Human Rights Watch says ruling party thugs were responsible for widespread and systematic abuses that led to the killing of up to 200 people, the beating and torture of 5 000 more, and the displacement of about 36 000 people.
Previous elections were neither peaceful.
When the late Edgar Tekere ran against Mugabe in the 1990 presidential race as the candidate of the Zimbabwe Unity Movement (Zum), his supporters were the targets of violent attacks and five candidates were murdered.
Those who were convicted of the attempted murder of a Zum official — former Gweru mayor, Patrick Kombayi — who was shot in the lower abdomen but survived the shooting, were pardoned immediately afterwards.
It is however, refreshing to hear Mugabe admonishing the terror groups in the harshest tone as he did in Lupane on Friday.He was quoted saying: “I hear there are groups that are going about tarnishing our image and that of the party; terrorising people in the name of the First Lady and we should never allow criminals to do that,” he said.
“Kick them out of the way when you see them; do that and do not wait for the police. Give them the punishment that they deserve and call the police later,” Mugabe added.
While his words are commendable, words alone will not deter these criminals. The president must follow through his words by giving strict instructions to the ZRP and other law enforcement agencies to hunt down these terror gangs so that they can have their day in court.
There should be no place to hide for those who disregard the law and deprive our communities of peace and harmony. But we must never advocate nor push peace-loving Zimbabweans to take the law into their own hands.