In one of my articles in 2019, I attempted to highlight the existence of what Francis Fukuyama termed “shadow economies” in our Zimbabwean context.
By Rawlings Magede
In his book, Political Order and Political decay, he traces the origins of the Italian Mafia in cities such as Lombardy and Sicily. He notes that they gained ground owing to the dysfunctional of the justice system in these cities where landlords enlisted their services to collect rentals from tenants.
In the process, they ended up ripping off both the landlord and tenant by charging exorbitant mark-ups and threatening all forms of violence to anyone who resisted their demands.
In all their activities, the mafia does not pay any form of a tax but rather thrive on protection fees charged to rich elites to protect and cement their business interest.
Zimbabwe is on edge. Bizarre stories of killings by machete-wielding gangs have enveloped an already sombre festive season. The already tainted festive mood was worsened by incidences of the Mashurugwi’s terror activities.
While the comatose economy is dishing its fair of blows to the ordinary citizen, the fear of the unknown of who next the terror groups will attack remains a preoccupation for many till this day.
Why the law enforcement agents have taken a casual approach to apprehend the violent gold panners remains a puzzle yet to be unmasked.
So complex is the Mashurugwi’s issue so much that many, in trying to unmask the force behind these shadowy groups have concluded the complicit hand of ruling elites.
Who supports them?
During meeting with small scale miners at their inaugural Zimbabwe Miners Federation AGM in Gweru in November 2019, President Emmerson Mnangagwa expressed optimism over the ability of artisan miners to provide the much-needed boost to the country’s ailing economy.
He even went a step further and underscored the need for small scale miners to be given liberty to pursue their activities without any hindrance by the state.
While mining has the potential to unlock potential revenue, the conduct of some artisan miners have left communities terrorized. Recently, the miners killed a policeman and murdered a gold buyer in Mvuma.
For all this, there are even reports that there are some machete-wielding miners who remain untouchable due to their links to some senior politicians.
During the festive holiday, Norton Legislator, Temba Mliswa fingered Chegutu Legislator, Dexter Nduna, Mashonaland West Head of Police and other unmentioned politicians of being behind the surge of Machete gangs in the Midlands province.
Nduna is not new to violence and last year alone during a televised parliamentary debate, he openly threatened Norton Member of Parliament, Norton Mliswa with violence and bragged that he had killed many people.
Nduna is not the only politician with links to the machete-wielding gangs. State Minister, Owen Ncube has also been fingered as the force behind these gangs.
Mostly the gangs are known for collecting “tribute” from fellow miners by demanding gold ore. Those who cooperate are spared.
While the security services have responded by conducting periodic searches for weapons at some of the mine entrances, some machete-wielding gangs roam freely without any reprisals from the law enforcement agents.
Wither justice delivery?
The operations of mashurugwi have left citizens with no choice but ensure that they protect themselves from violence. During a recent interaction with some youths in Glenview after machete-wielding gangs killed a money changer, there was consensus among the group of youths on the need to protect themselves from possible attack from the gangs.
One of them actually concluded that there was a need for business people including foreign currency dealers to also get their machetes and keep them at all times as a stopgap measure.
All these sentiments point to the failure of the law enforcement agents to protect citizens from attacks from these gangs.
In the final analysis, that Zimbabwe has descended into anarchy where the mafia and terror gangs are untouchable is worrisome.
The existence of shadow economies that are supported by the nefarious operations of the mashurugwi’s should be a cause for concern. Today its someone attacked, tomorrow it might be you. Something must give in.
Rawlings Magede is a Development Practitioner and writes here in his personal capacity. Feedback on firstname.lastname@example.org