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Bulawayo fears third force behind looting

Investigations by CITE revealed that ring leaders of gangs that targeted mostly supermarkets in the high density suburbs between Monday and Tuesday were not locals, raising fears that they were trained security agents.

A soldier was shot by a Bulawayo businessman on Tuesday after a mob raided a supermarket amid fresh allegations that suspected state security agents were largely behind vandalism and the looting that characterised recent mass protest that rocked the city.

Investigations by CITE revealed that ring leaders of gangs that targeted mostly supermarkets in the high density suburbs between Monday and Tuesday were not locals, raising fears that they were trained security agents.

Ntandoyenkosi Moyo, a soldier who was part of a gang that threatened to burn down Ashes service station in Nkulumane 12 on Tuesday, was shot by the  owner in the abdomen.

He was allegedly bundled into a black car without registration numbers and driven by his two colleagues, Tafadzwa Mhou and Washington Chididi believed to be soldiers.

Moyo’s colleagues returned to the scene after a couple of hours and were identified by members of the public leading to their arrest.

Police officers discovered that one of them, Mhou was also a soldier, with the rank of private and stationed at One Brigade.

He appeared in court charged with public violence and was remanded in custody.

The businessman (name withheld) was also charged with attempted murder.

Meanwhile, sources told CITE that their investigations showed that Moyo was later admitted at the privately owned Mater Dei Hospital. He has not yet been charged.

“The raid at Ashes was led by soldiers and locals said they did not know the ring leaders,” said a resident.

“The shooting exposed the fact that the looting was being coordinated by trained people”

Some business owners in suburbs such as Emganwinini, Nketa, Sizinda, Entumbane, Mpopoma and Nkulumane said gangs that led the vandalism and looting of their shops were mainly outsiders.

The majority of shops in the affected areas were vandalised or burnt down.

A number of business owners said they were facing an uncertain future because they owed suppliers thousands of dollars and may not be able to restock.

A businessman from Entumbane high density suburb, who only identified himself as Mr Machingura, said locals tried to protect his property from looters but were overwhelmed.

He said the ring leader was masked and was not known to locals.

“There was an organised gang, which was going from shop to shop vandalising and looting,” Machingura said.

“I observed there was one gang leader who was wearing a mask and he was the one who was initiating most of the raids and then some opportunists would go in once the shop was broken into.”

Machingura said he lost goods worth between $6000 and $7000.

He said he tried to remove some goods from the shelves before the gang descended on his shop at 2PM.

“The community protected the property and took most of the goods to their homes for safekeeping,” Machingura said.

“I have managed to recover some of the stuff but there are others who took advantage of the situation to loot. I doubt we will be able to recover all the goods.”

Machingura also lost computers, point of sale machines and other gadgets.

A community leader from Entumbane who identified himself as Khumalo said the behaviour of police officers during the disturbances was suspicious as they only responded after the looters had escaped.

“Somehow, one would think the police were involved as they were conspicuous with their absence as the violence and looting unfolded,” he said.

“They only responded later when more shops were looted and burnt down. Even up to now we are asking ourselves, where are the police?”

Khumalo said police officers were not visible during the disturbances and their reaction left a lot to be desired.

“It is common knowledge that our police force is ill-equipped but they should have used the few resources they have to maintain peace and order in the city.

“We are aware of the economic situation but that should not have been an excuse, the police should have been deployed on the ground.

“The people who were in the forefront of the looting spree are not locals; a few locals only took advantage of the situation.

“There was an organised syndicate, which was coordinating the raids.”

Dumisani Nkomo, the Habakkuk Trust CEO echoed Khumalo’s sentiments, saying the looting was “professionally done”, raising fears that a third force was involved.

“At some of the places it was professionally done that you start thinking that there was a third force involved in this,” he said.

“In some places members of the community were involved but in some areas there are fingerprints of some third force.”

An employee at a bottle store in Entumbane said police officers were overwhelmed by the gangs, who looted alcohol and $1000 in cash.

“They raided our complex on Tuesday after police tried in vain to keep the protestors at bay,” said one of the employees.

“The looters started with a neighbouring shop before they moved to our bottle store.”

The revelations by Bulawayo business people followed claims by former Finance deputy minister Terrence Mukupe on Saturday suggesting  on Twitter that the ongoing clampdown on dissent by the army was meant to sabotage President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

“I am worried with what’s going on,” he tweeted. “The citizens are blind to what’s really going on.

“The next 72 hours are going to be crucial regarding the path we are going to take as a nation. President Mnangagwa is not the issue.”

Mnangagwa’s ally said that Zanu PF was “not irrational” and added that “no one benefits from violence and destruction of properties.”

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions organised the nationwide stay away after Mnangagwa announced a 150% increase in fuel prices on January 12.

Violence broke out on Monday after protestors started barricading roads and looting shops.

According to human rights groups, 12 people were shot dead  by soldiers and 78 have been treated for gunshot wounds.

Soldiers began a crackdown on Wednesday where they broke into homes and indiscriminately assaulted people.

Over 600 people linked to the disturbances have been arrested since Monday.

The United Nations, Britain and Canada have condemned the military for the rights abuses  and urged Mnangagwa to halt the killings.

In August last year, the army shot dead six civilians and left several seriously injured after people went into the streets of Harare to protest against delays in the announcement of the July 30 presidential election results.

Mnangagwa set up a commission of inquiry led by former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe to investigate the killings.

The police and army were blamed for the deaths, which were roundly condemned by the international community

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