As 2019 came to a close, Shadreck Matiyenga thought the new decade was about to start on a good note but his life took a sudden turn. He trembles as he narrates his ordeal.
On December 22, Matiyenga (47), popularly known as Mupostori, of Glen View 1 Harare, experienced a nightmarish attack.
In events fit for a movie script, nearly a dozen men armed with guns, machetes and hammers pounced on his house.
The gang attacked the foreign currency dealer and forcefully grabbed US$810, R950 and ZWL$4 500. They also stole 35 litres of diesel and cellphones. Matiyenga is a known illegal foreign currency and fuel dealer.
He also imports goods for sale.
On the same night and in the same residential area, another marauding gun and machete-weilding gang was on the loose.
They attacked another illegal foreign currency dealer, Edmore Kanyangira, and robbed him of US$300, ZWL$10 000, a laptop and cellphones.
Narrating his ordeal, Matiyenga said he is convinced the attack was carefully planned.
He said: “The robbery at my house can be traced back to a month ago when a gang driving a grey Jeep Cherokee (vehicle registration number given) kidnapped my friend Bazel Hoto at our base at Glen View 1 shops.
“It was a case of mistaken identity because they were looking for me.
“Hoto was dumped at a secluded place in Glen Norah after being searched, but he was not carrying any cash.
“Then in the early hours of Sunday December 22, more than 10 unidentified men budged into our house through the backdoor. They first attacked Blessing Chibaya and Jairos Taruvinga, who stay in the back rooms.”
Clad in police uniform and balaclavas, the attackers ransacked Mupostori’s house.
“They had masks and were wearing police overcoats and combat high boots. Only one of them was not covered and was light in complexion,” he added.
“They then started calling out my nickname ‘Mupositori’ ordering me out of the house whilst threatening harm if I resisted. Even our neighbours were threatened and asked to stay indoors.”
According to Matiyenga, the gang did not steal any household goods except for the cash and cellphones. Police spokesman Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said investigations into the Glen View robberies were underway.
“We still have to verify allegations that the suspected robbers were wearing police uniforms and carrying guns,” he said.
“We are appealing to the concerned witnesses to report the matter so that we investigate. We want to appeal to members of the public to be alert.”
The Glen View robberies are an epitome of how the machete gangs, known as Mashurugwi, are terrorising innocent citizens. Some believe common criminals have also taken the Mashurugwi style to pounce on their targets.
Last week, another gang struck and killed a gold dealer in Mvuma.
The machete-wielding violent gangs had been a menace largely confined to illegal gold mining but they have now spread into urban residential areas.
Just last month, the machete attackers raided Zengeza 2 Shopping Centre in Chitungwiza killing one person.
A police officer was also murdered in cold blood in Battlefields near Kadoma.
Police have since arrested Lyton Panashe Tshuma (18), Obvious Mawire (21) and Munyaradzi Chari (43), Tonderai Musasa (18) and Richwell Tshuma (26) for the murder.
Others arrested are Bornlight Mukute (20), Paul Demo (27), Taurai Munetsi (31) and a minor aged 14 years.
The law enforcement agents have since last year arrested over 1 600 illegal miners for possessing dangerous weapons under an operation code-named “No to Anarchy by Artisanal Miners”.
Investigations by The Sunday Mail revealed that the recent wave of attacks in Harare could be attributed to illegal mining activities taking place closer to the capital.
There is a gold rush at Jumbo Mine in Mazowe where hundreds of illegal miners from across the country have descended.
Due to the mine’s proximity to the capital, these gangs have taken shelter in high-density suburbs of the city including areas like Budiriro, Mabvuku-Tafara, Epworth, Glen View, Warren Park, Kambuzuma, Dzivaresekwa and Chitungwiza.
These gangs, it has been gathered, fear seeking accommodation in other nearer towns like Bindura due to the presence of rival gangs, hence the decision to settle in the capital city.
Assistant Commissioner Nyathi warned the public against sharing information about private possessions. He said there was an ongoing operation to end the menace.
“There is an ongoing operation. If you recall this (last) week, we made some arrests in Mt Darwin where eight people were nabbed at Jumbo Mine,” said Assistant Commissioner Nyathi.
“In Kadoma, we arrested people who were causing anarchy.
“The operations which are being conducted throughout the country are ongoing. I want to reiterate that anyone who would want to interfere with investigations will only have themselves to blame.
“We also urge members of the public to cooperate with police officers as they maintain law and order at mining sites.
“No one should take the law into his or her own hands and expect the police to just let things go, no. Certainly action will be taken as shown by the arrests made in the past two weeks.”
However, regardless of the arrests, attacks have continued resulting in a number of deaths and rape cases being reported in mining towns.
The machete gangs hogged the limelight for the wrong reasons in 2018 following the arrest of the “Tobva Tadii” gang that was terrorising women in the Battlefields area of Kadoma.
The trio — Romeo Chirara (18), Admire Chirongoma (18) and Thabani Gaza (20) — was each slapped with a 10- year jail sentence.
The name Mashurungwi was a result of one of the gangs that originated from the Shurugwi area of the Midlands.
Traditional leaders from Midlands have since raised concerns over the use of the name Mashurugwi, dissociating themselves from the thuggish behaviour.
Some of the gangs have been linked to politicians while others think that a third force bent on destabilising the country through sponsoring terror and then blaming the Government.
Psychologists described those behind the latest wave of armed violence using machetes as psychopaths.
Zimbabwe Psychological Association associate member Anna Faith Makoni said: “These could be gangs of psychopaths who lack empathy, guilt or remorse and their actions are mostly impulsive. Psychopathic behaviour can be linked to their upbringing.”
A community psychologist, Kudzanai Wini-Dari, also weighed in: “What we may be experiencing are symptoms of a grieving community. Social inequalities have a way of contributing to the inter-generational trauma.
“We may need national healing not only from political differences, but focusing on the struggles experienced as a nation,” she said.