Source: EDITORIAL COMMENT : Let’s focus on production, tackle machete gangs | The Herald 01 JAN, 2020
As Zimbabwe enters its 40th year after the attainment of independence, we are confident peace will continue to prevail and that the economic reforms being carried out by President Mnangagwa and his Government will bear fruit.
We remain worried by the spectre of another drought.
This could be the single most devastating blow to our economic revival.
Its impact on the economy last year was significant, made worse by Cyclone Idai, economic sanctions and corruption.
Efforts are underway to shift from over-reliance on rain-fed agriculture to irrigation and we expect that 2020 will see a much more pronounced thrust in that direction.
Once agriculture is on the rise, with its multiplier effect on the economy, we expect to see real progress towards becoming a middle income economy by 2030.
The fight against corruption is producing results since the reorganisation of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC).
Already, we are told more than 600 cases are lined up.
If prosecuted successfully, a message will be sent that corruption does not pay.
We expect re-engagement to remain Zimbabwe’s main foreign policy thrust in 2020 and that as a country we will continue to take our place on the global arena.
Success in that regard will depend on how the Government handles domestic policies in the face of extreme provocation by sections of the opposition.
We remain confident that even the bitterest of the political contestants will be able to find each other with the help of local and regional mediators.
The economic blueprint is in place and there is clarity on the path to be followed to break the back of poverty and become a middle income economy.
Focus should be on production, production and production, as the President has repeatedly said.
There will be many sideshows to distract our attention.
The onus will be on the leadership to keep the country on the straight and narrow path of hard work, honesty, peace and unity.
As we start the new year, we are faced with a new challenge — an upsurge in violent crime, with more robberies, serious assaults and killings now being witnessed.
This menace must be eliminated through intensified police efforts, coupled with cooperation and sensible precautions by the large law-abiding majority.
What cannot be allowed to happen is an acceptance that this sort of lawlessness is inevitable.
We know it is not.
Zimbabwe has enjoyed since independence a very low level of violent crime, largely because of the efforts of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and the willingness and foresight of its commanders to commit adequate resources, even in difficult times, to catching and convicting violent criminals.
If you kill someone in Zimbabwe, or if you commit an armed robbery, the odds are very high that you will be caught.
The courts impose much higher sentences for violent crime than for non-violent crime, but the main deterrent is the high arrest and conviction rate achieved by the police.
Long sentences simply ensure that there is the double deterrent of near certain arrest and then a long spell in jail. So we must keep that high arrest rate.
Yet at the moment the machete gangs are the talk of the town, and even if there are exaggerations, it does appear that armed lawless gangs are moving around gold mining areas, forcing people off claims and robbing them of their hard-earned cash.
That is worrying.
Last week, a police officer was killed by one of these gangs which attacked a grossly outnumbered detachment of police sent to protect a mine and its workers.
We are now seeing similarly armed gangs move into our urban areas, attacking the homes of even well-secured people with overwhelming numbers.
The police obviously have a large number of responsibilities and have to juggle staff and other resources to cover these.
We have all seen “blitzes” where more manpower and resources are allocated to a particular operation to curb or prevent a particular nuisance.
Yet the police must now take a stronger lead in the battle against violent crime.
This, from a layman’s point of view, seems to involve several measures.
The CID might well need to be reinforced, especially the homicide section that deals with violent crime and has done so well for so long.
It appears that more officers need to be assigned when gangs are confronted.
One major problem from the police reports of that killing at Battlefields was that four officers were facing a large gang.
Normally four police officers can handle a great deal, but confronting a large determined violent gang is not one of these.
This implies that officers in charge of stations and their superiors at district level need to be able to call for reinforcements quickly.
Fortunately, ZRP has been training quick reaction units and has the Support Unit of officers trained and armed to cope with large violent armed gangs.
This might require squads of such officers assigned to stations or district headquarters and on standby so that a suitable reinforcement can be sent very quickly.
That must also require, considering scarce resources, some sort of rearrangement of transport.
But no matter what reassignments and reorganisation is done by the police, it will come to naught unless the public is willing, able and keen to play its part.
A squad of armed policemen cannot confront a gang of robbers unless they know where that gang is, what it is doing, how it is moving and where it is going.
But many ordinary people are looking at them and can at least report.
The police have advised householders to ensure their premises are secure.
This is good advice.
Even the best security will not stop a determined gang, but it will delay it and that delay can be used by everyone to get something effective done.
We are confident from past performance that the police can defeat the robber gangs.
But that might require adjusting staff levels and assignments and must bring in the public, at least as the eyes and ears of the police.
When it comes to violent crime, differences of opinion are minimal.
We can all work together to beat it. Doing so would be a good start to the new year.
We need to see confidence in the banking sector restored so that people don’t keep large amounts of money in homes.
In Zimbabwe it is rare for big businesses to be attacked by robbers because they have proper security and generally bank whatever cash they have.
It is the informal sector, where large amounts of cash circulate, that is a big attraction for these gangs.
Zimbabwe has enough political and economic challenges to deal with and should not allow violent crime to become one of them.