The incredible and relentless sweltering heat in the heart of rural Gokwe at Empress Mine is something of a shock. It burns while the sun does not shine brightly but rather lazily on the arid land.
Here at the shopping area, life seems to move at snail’s pace and yet there is an underlying story that is shocking and captivating at the same time while potentially bearing all the hallmarks of a Stephen King horror tale.
For amongst the hordes of youth pacing up and down in this rural enclave so far away from modernity, a scourge lurks and exists.
It is here amongst the youthful gold panning young men, that the phenomenon of walking around with slashers and machetes in their trousers is rampant and has seen incredible crime and violence resulting in many being maimed and even killed.
Flashback to the infamous video of the young Gokwe rapists that went viral last year resulting in the young men achieving infamy for their raping spree. In their video there was mention of the slashers-mabhemba that they also used to coerce their victims into sexual assault.
It all seemed like an old wives’ tale.
“Slashers and machetes? Of course that is true. You don’t need to wait too long to see the young men who do that. Just park a while and we can point them out to you,” said a woman manning a shop at Empress Mine shopping centre nonchalantly.
“Some say they do so as protection while others just carry them to terrorise the people and slash them as they steal from them or just harass them,” she says.
It is a wonder for those who visit how a community can live somewhat nonchalantly and comfortably with such a horrific reality. Like seeing an Eclipse or Haley’s comet on a daily basis. But to these members of this peasant and illegal panning community, thugs with pangas, machetes and slashers ready to run riot are as normal as thumbs on a hand.
Before long a young man wearing a political party t-shirt with bloodshot eyes charges into the bottle store where the woman works, casts his pair of furnace like eyes around the room and retreats slithering backwards evidently not having found whom, or what he was looking for.
“That is one of them. Notice even how he does not bend his other leg. He attacked someone recently and it is common cause that he is behind hacking that fellow but the man who was hacked did not make a report because they were fighting over the sharing of loot that they had stolen,” she says.
And soon enough another pair of evidently what are teenagers walk past the shop; “nhasi pane munhu atiri kuda kuuraya,” they bellow. (Today there is someone we want to kill).
In all possibility, they were not serious but were bellowing to pump themselves up and appear manly and strong, but any community in which the young have to feign being murderers and tout such sentiment around in order to appear macho is a community that needs serious help.
“The trick is there really is no formula on how to avoid them. Sometimes they can provoke you by just coming when you are having your beer and grabbing it out of your hand just to annoy you so they get an excuse to attack you. Especially if you look like someone from out of the area who appears to have good money. They can accuse you of being a show off and that is where the argument starts,” says another man.
The community is all too willing to tell the tales. But they keep their names to themselves and their images; “We live here. We would not want to end up hacked for having snitched on these dangerous young men. The problem is it is not about jobs because even if jobs come they won’t take them. They make more from their gold panning activities,” says the man further.
It is clear now why the sun shines lazily. It rises here because it has a God given duty to do so. If it had a choice it would not shine on this patch of the world no doubt.
“We are just told to get home early and never travel alone,” says a young woman with cherry purple lips who gives her name as Gloria as she sips on her soft drink; “my parents had to move me out of this community because of the violence,” she says.
They are clever parents. A rare beauty like her has no place in an area where her safety and future are uncertain.
It is hardly surprising that the Gokwe marauders who raped an entire swathe from house to house would end up like that after being raised in such an environment.
This is a place perhaps so dangerous that were Satan to spend a week here, he would leave the place with worse manners than upon his arrival. “We just hope the culture changes. The police are doing a good job trying to make this better. If they start stop and search activities and penalise heavily the men found with these dangerous weapons perhaps we can all sleep easy,” says the village elder.
All the while the sun is quivering in the sky. It can’t wait to set. It can’t wait to leave this dangerous patch of earth.