HARARE – The resurfacing of terror gangs in several parts of the country — all of which are linked in one way or the other to the ruling Zanu PF — is indeed worrying.
Their resurfacing must be least surprising as it is a reminder of the impending 2018 elections. Innocent and unsuspecting citizens are taken advantage of and fleeced of various amounts of money in the name of the party.
Mbare has for long been the epicentre of terror gangs with the dreaded Jim Kunaka-led Chipangano.
However, in recent years, terror gangs have spread to other towns and even growth points and rural areas.
Chipangano became infamous for demanding money from commuter as well as bus operators at Mbare Musika.
Every bus that picked up passengers from the popular bus rank would have to pay a fee.
Although members of the gang claimed that proceeds went to the party, nobody ever admitted to receipting anything from Chipangano in the higher party hierarchy.
The operations of the terror group was that they carried out their criminal activities in broad daylight, with reports that were made to the police on the gang’s activities never getting investigated, giving credence to the theory that indeed some officials high up the party hierarchy benefitted from the illicit activities.
Only last week, there were reports that farmers who bring their produce to Mbare Musika from rural areas have been the latest victims having lost huge amounts of money to Chipangano.
The group is reportedly now led by Mbare ward 4 chairperson Kuda Mavhaza, who is believed to be operating with the blessings of Harare provincial youth leader Edson Takataka.
During Kunaka’s time, Chipangano had even set up a branch in Mutare.
Kwekwe has another notorious group, Al Shabaab — named after the Somalia-based terrorist affiliate of al-Qaeda, fighting to turn the country into a fundamentalist Islamic State, which has been blamed for many attacks in the Midlands Province.
The groups have one thing in common.
They ride on the fear they instil in residents and traders, and fleece them of their hard-earned cash. Obviously, nobody receipts the money, making the illicit activity fertile ground for self-enrichment for those in control of the gangs.
The fact that police do not seem keen to probe reports of the activities of the gangs is disturbing.
One of the victims in the Mbare case last week claims he reported to Mbare Police Station under case number RRB3200675 and even brought police officers to effect arrest, but nothing was done with the officers reportedly claiming the group was a violent clique.
Terror gangs — which are very militant in nature — are not new in Zanu PF.
It appears this confirms Zanu PF’s perennial sense of insecurity which forces it to thrive on violence most of the time.
The emergence of Green Bombers — graduates of youth training institutions that were the brainchild of the late Zanu PF political commissar Border Gezi — have often played critical roles in the aid of Zanu PF in pre-election periods, benefitting the ruling party immensely in the process.
Zimbabweans need not forget the notorious bases in the run-up to the June 2008 presidential run-off poll. Citizens were literally force-marched to Zanu PF rallies at bases that had been set up, particularly in high-density suburbs and rural areas.
The experiences of March 2008 — when President Robert Mugabe lost for the first time in an election, to Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC — forced Zanu PF to resort to violent and coercive tactics which could only thrive through the use of militant party groupings in the mould of Chipangano and the “Green Bombers”.
Their role was to instil fear in the electorate for the benefit of Zanu PF and until today, the fear factor remains a key determinant of poll results in Zimbabwean elections.
For that reason, the police must apprehend terror gangs as soon as their presence is reported to them.