Patrick Chitumba Midlands Bureau Chief
THE Judiciary is imposing stiff penalties on convicted machete-wielding gangs to deter would-be offenders in the wake of a surge in cases of violent machete attacks on ordinary citizens, miners and businesspeople across the country.
Officially opening the 2020 legal year of the Gweru High Court circuit yesterday, Bulawayo High Court judge, Justice Martin Makonese, warned the machete-wielding gangs saying, time has come to end the menace.
He said stiffer sentences handed down in such cases should send a clear message that violence of any form will not be tolerated in a civilised and democratic society.
“During the year under review, there has been an upsurge in cases of violent crimes committed by marauding gangs of machete-wielding youths. The country has seen violent gang wars amongst artisanal miners never seen before in the history of the country.
“Scores of innocent people have been injured and maimed. Lives have been lost. There has been a relentless surge in youth gangs going on the rampage in all provinces of the country attacking and injuring people. In all this, these criminal elements have resorted to the use of deadly machetes, axes, shovels, knives and other dangerous weapons,” he said.
Justice Makonese said the machete-wielding gangs had the tenacity to attack and even kill policemen in uniform.
“Unruly terror gangs recently killed a policeman, Constable Wonder Hokoyo, in Kadoma. Let it be known that we as the Judiciary will hand stiff penalties where appropriate on any persons convicted of these heinous crimes.
‘‘These sentences handed down in such cases will send out a clear message that violence of any form will not be tolerated in a civilised and democratic society,” he said.
Justice Makonese said machete attacks are not always random adding that some attacks are well-organised, well-executed and premeditated by rogue elements in our society.
“While these attacks are prominent amongst artisanal and small-scale miners, ordinary criminals have now adopted similar style and tactics and use brute force to rob, injure and kill innocent civilians. The time has come to end this menace. While the courts shall do everything to impose appropriate sentences on offenders, all stakeholders, including the police and National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) must play their part in the arrest and prosecution of these criminal gangs,” he said.
The Judiciary, Justice Makonese said, has a duty, not only to ensure that justice is delivered without fear or favour to all, but account to the nation at large for its activities.
“All persons are entitled to equal protection under the law. Public confidence is quickly eroded if we in Judiciary do not act with the transparency that is expected of us.”
He said they will continue calling for the establishment of a permanent High Court at Gweru since the circuit generates a high number of cases.
“There is urgent need for the establishment of a permanent High Court in the Midlands capital. The number of cases, handled at this circuit clearly indicates that the administration of justice requires that a permanent station be established in order to deliver speedy and efficient justice to all in this vast province. We urge the Government and Judiciary Service Commission to commit to this important project,” he said.
“There can be no justification for someone in Gokwe, Shurugwi or Mberengwa to have to travel long distances to access the High Court in Harare, Bulawayo or Masvingo. Midlands Province deserves a permanent High Court station.”
Justice Makonese urged legal practitioners to undertake adequate research before coming to court to avert unnecessary clogging of the court roll.
During this current circuit, a total of 16 cases have been set down for trial.