Freeman Razemba Crime Reporter
THE number of illegal miners arrested countrywide in a police operation to restore law and order in mining communities has risen to 1 536, with 191 of them having been jailed for various offences including prospecting for gold without a licence, trespassing and possessing dagga.
Among the arrested miners was Phelandaba Tshuma (32), the man suspected to be the ringleader of a machete gang that hacked to death a policeman at Good Hope Mine in Battlefields recently.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said a total of 257 suspects appeared at Shamva Circuit Court on Wednesday.
The court jailed 77 of them two years each after they pleaded guilty to illegal mining.
The court slapped the other 112 with 50-day prison terms each for criminal trespassing while one was fined $80, failing which he will spend 30 days in prison for possessing dagga.
Another one was jailed five months with an option to pay a $500 fine for possessing dagga.
The court remanded 66 others in custody pending trial.
Some of the suspects are likely to appear in court today.
Tshuma, suspected to be the ringleader of a machete gang called Ziga, was arrested at his hideout in Rushinga, after he attempted to flee from the police and he was shot in the right leg.
Eight suspects who belong to a Kwekwe-based group called the Maketo Brothers were also arrested and police recovered several machetes, home-made knives and a sack with a sword, bow and three arrows.
Asst Comm Nyathi confirmed the arrests.
“With reference to the murder of a police officer (Constable Wonder Hokoyo) in Battlefields, Kadoma, on 28 December 2019, police have arrested Pelandaba Tshuma at his hideout in Rushinga, Mt Darwin. The accused was on the police wanted list for several cases of attempted murder and assault involving the use of machetes,” he said.
When police raided his hideout, Tshuma attempted to flee, resulting in police firing warning shots but he did not take heed. He was then shot on the right leg leading to his arrest.
Tshuma, who is currently admitted at Kadoma General Hospital under police guard, is facing charges of murdering Cst Hokoyo and attempting to murder Detective Sergeant Munyoro and Detective Assistant Inspector Chikandiwa.
He has three other cases of assault, in which he allegedly used a machete in Kadoma.
Asst Comm Nyathi said in Kwekwe, police, acting on a tip-off, arrested the members of the Maketo Brothers — Albert Tembo (27), Michael Mutevedzi (18), Honest Sibanda (31), Gerald Chinondo (31), Petros Mabeka (33), Alexander Moyo (39), Japhet Tembo (21) and Chiko Mukucha (25).
Three of them were arrested while they were in their vehicle, a BMW registration number AET 4451 and police recovered several machetes.
They then led police to Mbizo high- density suburb where more suspects were arrested and were found with home-made knives and machetes.
Police also recovered a sword, bow and three arrows from one Michael Mutevedzi.
Investigations revealed that Albert Tembo has pending cases of violence and assault. Honest Sibanda had a home-made knife.
The Kwekwe suspects will appear in court today for unlawful possession of dangerous weapons and also engaging in violence using machetes.
Asst Comm Nyathi said: “The Zimbabwe Republic Police assures the nation that follow-ups are going to be vigorously undertaken on anyone involved in machete-wielding gang acts and illegal mining. The police are working flat out to ensure that law and order is maintained throughout the country.
“The ongoing operation against illegal mining and machete-wielding gangs has so far accounted for 1 536 accused persons. The police recovered several vehicles, firearms, a toy gun, explosives, machetes, pepper sprays, ammunition, digital scale and assorted mining implements,” he said.