Heather Charema in KADOMA
A policeman was clubbed and hacked to death on Saturday and his colleague was seriously injured, while defending workers at Good Hope Mine in Battlefields from an invading criminal gang armed with machetes, logs, axes and catapults.
The invaders are reported to be the gang known as “Team Barca”, formerly led by Taurai Mutandwa who was shot dead during the David Whitehead gold rush in Chegutu.
The killing and assaults on police are suspected to be in revenge.
Police have launched a manhunt for the culprits, with crack teams from the Support Unit, District Reaction Group (DRG) and the dog section already on the ground.
Yesterday, a high-powered police crack team led by the Officer Commanding Mashonaland West Province, Assistant Commissioner Francis Muswere, and Officer Commanding Kadoma District Chief Superintendent Kezias Karuru, convened a meeting at ZRP Battlefields to direct operations against the gang.
Constable Wonder Hokoyo (27) was first disarmed by a blow to the head with a log before his body was cut and chopped by gang members wielding machetes and axes.
His colleague, identified as Constable Kamhuka, was referred to Kadoma General Hospital, where his condition is said to be stable.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed the attacks.
“Police are investigating an incident which occurred at Brompton Mine in Battlefields, Kadoma, where some artisanal miners engaged in violence and in the process, attacked police officers who had been deployed there,” he said.
“One police officer was struck with a machete and died, the other one was attacked and is currently admitted at a local hospital. Police are strongly warning people who are engaging in acts of violence that certainly, the law will take its course.”
Asst Comm Muswere said police had intensified the investigations. “We have dispatched our Support Unit, DRG and dog section into the area to make a follow up on yesterday’s (Saturday) incident. Everyone is on the ground and we are looking for leads. This operation will bring the culprits to book,” he said.
It is reported that at around 11am last Friday, Cst Hokoyo was deployed to Good Hope Mine with three other police officers to deal with an invasion by artisanal miners.
On Saturday, at around 2pm, the suspected killers together with many others still at large, proceeded to the mine armed with machetes, catapults
and axes and forcibly took control of the mine shafts, dispersing the company’s workers who were extracting gold ore.
The police officers deployed fired warning shots to disperse the illegal miners, but they did not leave.
Instead, they advanced towards the police, disarmed them and assaulted them.
Cst Hokoyo and Cst Kamhuka were hit on the backs of their heads with logs, disarming them, before the gang closed in for the fatal assault and inflicting the serious injuries on Cst Kamhuka before he managed to escape.
This forced the other officers to retreat.
The body of the slain policeman was taken to Kadoma General Hospital Mortuary for post-mortem.
President Mnangagwa has repeatedly condemned violence and lawlessness among artisanal miners, and warned that perpetrators will face the full wrath of the law.
There have been numerous reports of violence among artisanal miners who invade mining claims while attacking competitors with machetes, and even outrightly grab other miners’ gold or the cash they earn.
Some have since been nicknamed “MaShurugwi” or “Vemabhemba” as reports of violent clashes over the control of mining claims continue across Zimbabwe.
Traditional leaders from Shurugwi have expressed concern over the labelling of their people as being behind the spate of killings and robberies in gold mining areas.
The chiefs said it was unfortunate that both mainstream and alternative media platforms and high-ranking officials were perpetuating the “MaShurugwi” label.
The “Mashurugwi” tag has become synonymous with violent machete-wielding gangs that terrorise gold panners, either to forcefully grab one’s gold or proceeds from a transaction or a gold-rich mine.