Harare--Systematic nigh-time raids and assaults on residents of some of Harare’s most populous suburbs by unidentified gangs have spawned fear that is forcing the citizens to confine themselves to their homes after dusk.
Gangs in plain clothes—some of them armed with truncheons and small guns and wearing masks—are using four-wheel drives to pounce on crowds and patrons gathered at shopping centres and other public places from late evening, NewsHub has noted.
The raids have been particularly pronounced in the wake of the general elections that were held on 24-26 August.
Zanu PF and its presidential candidate, Emmerson Mnangagwa, won the polls but the main opposition, Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), disputed the results, insisting that the elections were rigged.
Several observer missions also noted serious irregularities in the manner in which the polls were conducted.
Mnangagwa has since been inaugurated and announced a new cabinet, but the security sector has been on high alert to cover possible protests by supporters of the main opposition.
Surveys in areas considered to be hotbeds of unrest, among them Epworth, Mabvuku-Tafara, Warren Park and Chitungwiza revealed that, unlike in the run-up to the elections, shopping centres that used to teem with patrons—sometimes well into the next morning—were now largely deserted after 8pm.
In Mabvuku-Tafara, where big spender Scott Sakupwanya of the ruling Zanu PF surprisingly lost to CCC’s Munyaradzi Kufahakutizwi in the parliamentary race, unidentified men moving around in the four-wheelers have left dozens of patrons nursing injuries.
The real reasons for the attacks or the identity of the assailants remain a mystery, but some residents are speculating that the attackers are punishing them for voting in favour of CCC.
In the constituency, raids were noted in such areas like Chizhanje, Mabvuku and Tafara.
The residents alleged that Sakupwanya’s aides and supporters had threatened to hit back after the loss, but the media-shy gold dealer was not picking his phone or responding to Whatsapp messages.
One of the residents related his ordeal during a recent raid in Mabvuku-Tafara.
“We were having drinks (beer) after watching the Manchester United-Arsenal game when about four guys wearing balaclavas stormed the bar. They wantonly whipped people with sjamboks, leaving many of us with deep cuts,” said the resident who identified himself only as Danny.
A worker at one of the nightclubs raided by the gang said the assailants were using unmarked Toyota GD6 vehicles, which are commonly used for deployments and other operations by security agents.
“The thugs didn’t utter anything so we couldn’t establish what they were beating our clients for. It is after they were leaving that we noticed that they were driving unregistered GD6 cars,” said the worker who requested anonymity.
The worker said he was puzzled by the fact that some of the victims of the raids were known Zanu PF activists, leading him to speculate that the assailants were also targeting ruling party members believed to have sabotaged Zanu PF candidates at the elections.
Kufahakutizw, the recently sworn-in CCC member of parliament for Mabvuku-Tafara, confirmed the raids.
“Some residents here have been beaten up while enjoying themselves in joints (nightclubs) in this constituency but we are not sure who is behind,” said the legislator.
The police provincial spokesperson for Harare, Luckson Chakanza, said he had not received any reports of the alleged raids.
Epworth, considered a leading source of political unrest over the years, has gone virtually dead during the night.
It is well-known for bars and shebeens that operate virtually throughout the day and night but, these days, only small groups can be seen patronising the odd bar that would have braved the raids.
NewHub observed that, at Munyuki shopping centre, most of the bars close around 8pm. On one recent trip, only one nightclub was operating.
The few patrons were cautious of unknown vehicles and were visibly edgy.
The quiet contrasts sharply with the past when even children could be seen loitering at the business centre beyond midnight.
Rights activist, Farai Maguwu recently posted on Facebook a report of a raid in Westlea, another Harare suburb that borders with Warren Park.