Bloodbath, rape terrify communities
Traditional leaders call for cleansing ceremonies

Tendai Chara

ON September 20, 2023, Kudzai Banda (27), of Gadzema in Chegutu, was walking towards an area where he usually panned for gold when a stranger gestured him to stop.

The stranger asked Kudzai where his brother John was. When he told him that he did not know, the man, in a flash, withdrew a machete from his overcoat and whacked him on the head.

He fell on the ground.

Four other men, who were hiding in a nearby thicket, quickly joined the assault, slashing the defenceless man on his legs, head, neck and back.

When Kudzai finally regained consciousness, some few hours later, he was lying on a hospital bed. Due to the injuries he sustained during the attack, Kudzai can no longer walk, let alone fend for his wife and two kids.

A year after the gruesome attack that changed his life, Kudzai is still searching for answers.

“Up to now, I don’t know why I was viciously attacked. They told me that I was going to die for my brother’s sins. But where did I fit in?” asked Kudzai.


The former artisanal miner’s eyes welled up, exhibiting a mixture of anger and despair. Not only had he lost his livelihood in the incident, but the perpetrators were still free, preying on other vulnerable victims.

The injustice troubled him.

“After butchering me, the gang simply moved to another area. They were never arrested despite ruining my life,” added a clearly distraught Kudzai.

Machete-wielding gangs — which are involved in brutal stabbings, assaults, robberies and rape, among other heinous crimes — are terrorising innocent people, especially in gold-rich areas.

In 2020, the police conducted a nationwide operation, which was, to a larger extent, successful in weeding out the marauding gangs.

Code-named “Operation Chikorokoza Chapera”, the crackdown followed an outcry from citizens over machete-wielding robbers who were terrorising the public throughout the country.

After restoring order in mining areas by taking on the gangs and arresting a large number of artisanal miners, it appeared the waves of violence committed by the machete gangs were going to be a thing of the past.

The thugs have, however, resurfaced countrywide, targeting mines and individuals keeping large amounts of cash. The motives behind the vicious attacks vary; they range from revenge killings to robberies, rape and sometimes mere bullying.

Sadly, the majority of machete attack victims are suffering in silence since they are afraid of facing the criminals in court.

Boyson Ndlovu, an artisanal miner from Battlefields near Kwekwe, is a bitter man.

“I know the people who chopped off my brother’s arms.

“After two days, they came to me and told me, in no uncertain terms, that they would cut off my head if I stood up against them in court.

“They cut off my brother’s arms as if they were cutting tree branches,” narrated Ndlovu.


Chief Ngezi (born Peter Pasipamire), whose jurisdiction covers the mining towns of Kadoma and Chegutu, where machete gangs freely roam, corroborated Ndlovu’s predicament.

“These machete gangs have no respect for human life. They often intimidate potential witnesses.

“They can also afford good lawyers and without witnesses, cases against them die natural deaths,” he said.

The size of the gangs ranges from two to as many as 30. They are mostly armed with knives, machetes and spears.

Tineyi Mukweva, a farmer in Matopos, near Bulawayo, sustained injuries after he was attacked by a gang of machete-wielding robbers.

“The robbers, who are artisanal miners, beat their victims using the sides of machetes and knobkerries that were wrapped in iron chains,” said Mukweva.

He added that the presence of police officers could not deter the criminals from further assaulting their victims.

“A police officer identified himself and ordered the gang to drop their weapons but the robbers turned a deaf ear and continued attacking us.

“They only backed down and disappeared into the darkness as more police officers and locals came to the scene.

“Victims are often intimidated and are afraid of facing their attackers in court,” he said.

Naison Sibiya, of Battlefields, just outside Kwekwe, had an encounter with a machete gang that left him with emotional scars.

“I got a distress call that armed men were ransacking my brother’s shop.

“When I got to the shop, I found my brother dead and lying in a pool of blood. I know the people who killed him but I cannot face them because I will end up dead, just like my brother,” Sibiya said.

After his brother’s gruesome murder, Sibiya is living in fear.


Patrons at a bar in Kadoma were recently humiliated by a gang of machete-wielding bullies.

Jervas Marapira, one of the patrons who fell victim to the rowdy goons, narrated the degrading ordeal that he was subjected to.

“A gang of five machete-wielding thugs stormed into a bar and ordered patrons to kiss whoever was next to them. In a degrading scene, men were forced to kiss other men,” Marapira said.

The machete gangs that operate in Kadoma are commonly known as Maziga. Mhangura has the maDoma, while Chegutu has Team Barca.

National police spokesperson Commissioner Paul Nyathi urged the public to report cases, particularly those involving machete-wielding gangsters.

“As we speak, an operation to weed out such criminal elements is underway. We are encouraging the public to come forward and give us the specific details so that we bring the culprits to book,” said Comm Nyathi.


Trevor Zhou, an artisanal miner who was attacked and lost fingers in an area known as ZMDC in Kadoma, called on the Government to start a fund that will cater for the needs of victims of machete attacks.

“I can no longer work for my family. The Government must introduce a fund that will go towards the upkeep of people like me. In the meantime, I will be grateful if well-wishers come to my aid,” Zhou said.

Chief Ngezi wants cleansing ceremonies to be held in all the places where machete gangs attacked and killed people.

“If you look at it today, the panners are failing to get meaningful gold. The ancestors are angry because of the bloodshed. Cleansing ceremonies are the way to go,” notes Chief Ngezi.

Victims of machete attacks are flocking to the traditional leader’s home seeking help.

Among the people who are visiting his home are orphans who are being left by the slain artisanal miners.

Chief Ngezi said his vehicle is now being used more “as an ambulance”.

“Apart from the minor skirmishes, we have an average of three serious cases every week that we are attending to and taking the victims to hospital,” he added.

The traditional leader’s Zunde raMambo has so far helped more than 300 people, the majority of whom are victims of machete attacks.

Cases involving machete attacks are also on the rise at the chief’s traditional court.

“We have some who are using our court to negotiate with the families of those that would have been killed in turf wars.

“They are using the traditional court to initiate payment to appease avenging spirits,” said Nicholas Jure, Chief Ngezi’s assistant.

Calls have been made for the Government to ban the sale or ownership of machetes, with suggestions that anyone found in possession of these weapons should face arrest.

One can easily acquire machetes as they are cheap and readily available. Others personally manufacture them.

Elsewhere in Africa, machete-wielding gangs are notorious in Uganda, where they maim and kill innocent people every year.