VEHICLES were smashed while people were injured at Christmas Pass in Mutare when violence, pitting suspected smugglers of second-hand clothes, broke out over control of illegal routes connecting to Mozambique.
Travellers could neither drive into nor out of Mutare as the warring groups’ vehicles temporarily blocked the road.
Police managed to arrest Mutare businessman Edward Muhamba and 10 others in connection with the violence that injured people and damaged several vehicles.
The 10 are: Simon Muzonzini (45), Occasion Chimwendo (33) Guthrie Masuku (39) Ronald Muvhuti (37), Dumisani Chapanduka (30), Rapahael Marange (32) Learnmore Simango (39), Blessing Mutenda (19), Tawanda Zimunya (18), and Abishel Chidziya (22).
According to information gathered by the police, the fight involved a group led by Muhamba and another one led by a man only identified as Dzingai, who is still at large.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed the fracas saying the 11 were in police custody pending appearance in court.
“I can confirm the arrest of Edward Muhamba and 10 others over violence that took place yesterday Along the Christmas Pass area and it spread to Penhalonga area.
“A group of about 50 people clashed and vehicles were damaged. They were using stones, sticks and iron bars.
“Police received a tip off and went to Meikles Allied Timbers Estate, Penhalonga where they only observed smashed glasses on the ground but the gangs had already left.
“Some four hours later, police received another tip and went to Christmas Pass where they found the camps fighting,” he said.
According to the police, an unregistered Land Cruiser was found full of stones and sticks.
“A mob of more than 50 male adults engaged in verbal insults and armed some with sticks, stones and metal rods.
“There was also a brown unregistered Land Cruiser vehicle laden with stones and sticks. It was idling. One white Landcruiser vehicle, registration number AES 9888 had no driver but the keys were on ignition. Police also found an unregistered Scania lorry whose windscreen had been smashed,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.
He said preliminary investigations revealed that the two rival groups were fighting over control of illegal routes used to smuggle bales of second-hand clothes from Mozambique.
“After observing and interviewing sources, it turned out that of the two warring parties; one was led by Edward Muhamba and another one by one Dzingai. Police gathered that the groups were fighting over a smuggling route of second hand clothes around the border area, between Zimbabwe and Mozambique,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.
The vehicles found at the scene were towed to Penhalonga Police Station while the 11 were arrested. The recovered vehicles,according to the police, belong to Muhamba.
Asst Comm Nyathi said police had launched a manhunt for Dzingai, who reportedly fled the scene together with the members of his group.
According to the police, Dzingai was reportedly injured in the fight.
“Investigations are in progress and a manhunt for Dzingai has been launched. It is believed he is nursing injuries from a private hospital,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.
On the same day, police received another tip off and arrested two armed men who were escorting trucks ferrying smuggled bales of clothes in Nyazura.
They recovered 553 bales of second hand clothes, 13 boxes of cellphones and packs of Mariana rice, which had been smuggled from Mozambique.
Anyway Chinyanga (39) and Stanely Dzemwa (50) who were using smaller cars, were arrested while the drivers of the two trucks fled.
The pair’s vehicles had shattered windscreens after clashes with rival smugglers in Mutare but the pair refused to make a police report.
Last week, police also seized two trucks and 157 bales of clothing in Burma Valley but the drivers and their assistants escaped.
The arrests and seizures followed an investigative story by The Herald that exposed rampant smuggling of clothing bales and fuel through an undesignated point in Burma Valley.
Of late, control of the porous border near Mutare had reportedly been taken over by smuggling cartels.
The cartels had become powerful and so daring, to the extent of hiring earth-moving equipment to clear and periodically repair gravel roads passing into Mozambique through undesignated points.
Armed former security officers were hired to provided escort services.
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