Heather Charema in Chegutu
Thirteen Chegutu police officers deployed to tame machete gangs have appeared in court for allegedly extorting $2 900 and US$250 from miners in Chakari.
John Chikoro, Washington Chikwenya, Isaac Chitsvuka, Last Shiri, Komborero Mazviyo, Pardon Haruperi, Tatenda Chingozha, Ezekiel Tinago, Susan Mhloro, Brighton Chitemere, Evans Warama, Washington Nyashanu and Logic Tirivaviri appeared before Chegutu magistrate Ms Judith Taruvinga, who remanded them in custody to today, for bail application.
It is alleged that the crack team of the 13 accused officers was assigned to carry out patrols during the day and night in Chegutu and Pfupajena areas from January 23 to February 6. Instead, they allegedly went to Chakari without authorisation and started extorting money from people who owned hammer mills.
On February 3, the team, which was supposed to operate from Gadzema and Chigwel Farm in Chegutu, allegedly decided to proceed to Chakari, again, some wearing their police uniforms and others in civilian clothes.
The team was armed with three FN rifles, a pistol and one Mossberg rifle.
They travelled to Chavechase compound in Chakari in an unregistered white Toyota Hiace and at around 7pm allegedly approached Michael Chaponda, who operates a hammer mill, and ordered him to pay US$300 but he only managed to pay US$150. Chaponda was reportedly ordered to call all those who owned hammer mills and ball mills in the area.
He called Winnie Nyani, Tapfuma Mashupiko and Eneresi Arimoni and the three were allegedly ordered to pay a fine of US$300 each or risk losing their mills. Nyani paid $1 400, Mashupiko paid $1 500 and Arimoni paid US$100 out of fear of losing their mills.
Chaponda handed the money to the team and they drove off in the unregistered vehicle.
The next day, the four who had handed over the money were at Chakari Police Station by 8am. After being told the 13-officer squad came from Chegutu, they proceeded to Chegutu Police Station where they asked to be refunded their cash.
Investigations then started leading to the arrest of the 13.
Abigail Fana prosecuted.