Consistency will be key to the success of measures launched recently to address and reverse lawlessness.
Last week, the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage announced the arrest of more than 5 000 people over the past eight months for offences such as illegal mining and possession of dangerous weapons.
The ministry warned politicians suspected of sponsoring machete-wielding gangs that the long arm of the law will catch up with them and that the law will be applied equally on everyone regardless of their social standing.
The ministry has identified the problem of machete-wielding gangs as both “worrisome and a serious security threat”.
Such an understanding of the problem is important because it suggests a totally different approach and new tactics will be employed in the course of fighting the new threat.
It should not just be the arrests that Zimbabweans wish to see if combating this new menace is going to be tackled head-on.
There is need for all to see the instigators of the violence receiving stiffer jail sentences.
For far too long, people with total disregard of the law have been allowed to brazenly violate the law without bearing the consequences of their criminal conduct.
The rest of law-abiding citizens have been spectators to these developments, wondering whether this was the new normal and where this will take the country.
Allowing such cancers to fester would be the first in a series of steps for a country to descend into generalised low–level chaos.
Such chaos has been witnessed as vendors in towns and cities occupy streets, rendering pavements impassable.
This is a problem that has been with us for years now.
It has been evident in unruly commuter omnibus drivers and their assistants, who have become a law unto themselves as they engineer chaos on the country’s roads and openly terrorise and abuse commuters — the very people who pay their salaries.
It has been seen where pirate taxis have occupied swathes of streets, making them impassable to other motorists.
This has sadly been a recent and yet developing feature of the country’s urban areas.
The majority of accidents recorded on the cities’ road networks are linked to or can be traced to the erratic conduct of drivers of pirate taxis.
This is why insurance companies no longer provide insurance cover for vehicles used for that type of business.
The other area of lawlessness is being played out in sections of towns where money-changers dominate, while trading openly.
Despite the activity being outlawed, the money-changers trade brazenly.
Cases of traders at former Ximex Mall, who play cat-and-mouse with the police, creating the impression of having vacated the area point to this lawlessness.
They are on the streets and it is business as usual, because the focus is half-hearted and has never been to drive them out of town.
Cash leakages from banks to the black market are another threat that needs to be nipped in the bud before it destroys the little trust left in the banking sector.
In all the cases cited and where it appears enforcement has been woefully absent, the major missing ingredient has been consistency.
It will not help to deal half-heartedly with a problem or only when there is a public outcry and expect total transformation.
There is therefore need to ensure that once a decision is made to eliminate a cancer in society, the resources to combat it are availed for something like six months at the least, or when there is noticeable change.
The reason why Cape Town, Kigali and Windhoek stand out as model cities in Africa is because there is determination to fight anything that degrades their world-class status.
It is possible to eradicate the menace of machete-wielding gangs and their patrons.
It is possible to clean up the streets of the towns and cities in the country.
It is possible to deal with money-changers. And it is possible to bring order to the chaos of kombi crews.
However, for these measures to succeed, ushering long-term benefits to the general public, it is imperative that there is consistency in deployment of resources and enforcement of measures taken.