A gang armed to the teeth with machetes raided a school on Monday this week in Zhombe, Midlands Province, and robbed teachers of various personal belongings, leaving the usually quiet community shell-shocked.
School authorities and students at Batanai Sesombi Secondary School in Zhombe separately told Zimbabwe Voice that they were still in shock after the gang besieged their school sports grounds on Monday after sunset and detonated explosives in search of gold, with teachers scurrying into the bush for their safety.
In the ensuing melee, some teachers reported that they had their personal belongings looted form their houses when they fled.
Both the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and the Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) have confirmed the attack, which occurred even as police in Midlands have banned the carrying of machetes and other dangerous weapons.
“Preliminary investigations show that indeed there were some skirmishes at Batanai Sesombi Secondary School,” said Patrick Zumbo, a public relations officer at the Ministry of Education, in an interview with Zimbabwe Voice. “School authorities have since reported the matter to the area police, who we understand are now carrying their own investigations.”
Zumbo added that normal lessons and other school activities have since resumed at the school.
A teacher who spoke to this publication said the gang members were well-known, and local police were too scared to hold them to account.
“Even the police report had to be made in a very strategic manner to avoid being spotted at the police. The gang seems to have a blank cheque to unleash violence and no-one around here can stop them, It’s a shame really.”
Efforts by Zimbabwe Voice to get hold of Acting Midlands provincial police spokesperson Assistant Inspector Ethel Mukwende were however not successful, but ARTUZ confirmed the disturbances.
“Our comrades at Batanai Sesombi School in Zhombe are under attack from gangs who are openly detonating explosives at the school sports ground. Teachers there are not safe, and have been chased into the forests by the marauding gangs.
“Our schools are no longer safe. Teachers who the communities must cherish and protect are now working under difficult circumstances due to these gangs. Where is the police in all this?” said an officer at ARTUZ.
The disturbances come as Midlands Provincial Affairs Minister Larry Mavima this week called upon all stakeholders to join hands with the police and decisively deal with machete gangs before they become warlords who have a potential to start a civil war.
Speaking on Tuesday at a Gweru (church) Ministers Fraternal-organised meeting on ending violence in the province, Mavima said history was going to charge society harshly for failing to deal with the machete violence menace in the country.
“As society, and the Midlands province in particular, we should begin to ask ourselves: Who are these machete-wielding gangs?” Mavima said.
“The worst thing we can do is fold our arms, watch, sit and do nothing. In other countries, such gangs have become warlords and that is how civil wars start.”
— Zimbabwe Voice