Land of knives and death:

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page - Robert Mukondiwa

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. Not so. “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.

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