Tuesday 30 April 2019

Criminal Gangs Spring Back To Life In Kitwe

By Paul Shalala
Kitwe District Commissioner Binwell Mpundu addressing residents
of Miseshi last week -Picture by Time Photograpy

Exactly 22 days before the Kitwe High Court rules on the fate of the 18 Tokota Gang members, two other previously unknown gangs have sprung up in Kitwe.

The Unruly and Sokota Gangs have established themselves in the western half of Zambia’s second largest city, terrorizing residents especially at night.

According to some residents, the gangs are involved in a number of burglaries and petty thefts.

At a meeting held recently to sort out the security lapse in the area, residents complained that the local Community Crime Prevention Unit (CCPU), which are a creation of the Zambia Police Service, are not helping.

“We want a neighbourhood watch group comprised energetic people, not these old men in CCPU,” said one resident.

The residents also wondered why Police officers are no longer present at night to conduct patrols in the badly affected areas of Mindolo, Miseshi and D Section.

The meeting later resolved to form two neighbourhood watch groups to be spearheaded by youth leaders Bernard Mwila and Michael Katoma.

The neighbourhood watch communities have been formed under the slogan "The Security of my community is my responsibility."

Despite members of the public knowing the gang members terrorizing their community, they are scared to report them to the Police.

“The sad part is that the members of the community in Miseshi actually know who these criminals are but are scared to disclose their identities. So the challenge I give them is that they should never cry foul if they don't do the noble duty of furnishing information to the security wings,” said Binwell Mpundu, Kitwe District Commissioner.

Mr. Mpundu, who is the head of government in Kitwe and is in charge of all state security agencies in the district, went on to give advise to the community.

“I just want to warn parents who are habouring these criminals that they risk being prosecuted for aiding, abetting or otherwise shielding these criminals or else they have a task to transform their children into responsible citizens before the law visits them.”
Bernard Mwila (in red), one of the Youths to lead the local
neighbourhood watch groups

Last year, fear gripped almost all neighbourhoods in Kitwe as various criminal gangs terrorised this major mining town, raping, beating and stealing from people especially at night.

The gangs such as the Tokota Boys, Sons Of the Devil (SOD), The 100s, (0 Niggas, 70 Niggas, Mbwambwambwa and many others disappeared when the Zambia Police Service launched a vicious crackdown in May 2018.

Dozens of gang members were arrested, prosecuted and a number of them jailed for their criminal activities.

Some of them such the 18 Tokota Boys are awaiting judgement in the High Court next month.

Their arrests brought jubilation in the city but the old days are back as new gangs have taken over territory which other gangs held last year.

Friday 19 April 2019

Over 200 Old People Gunned Down In Zambia Over Witchcraft

Some of the gunmen arrested in Nakonde
By Paul Shalala

Over 200 elderly people have been gunned down by hired killers in the northern Zambian region of Muchinga in the past three years on allegations of being witches.

A total of 243 elderly people have lost their lives so far, 26 of them in the first four months of this year.

Lawlessness has spread to villages in the area with people hiring gunmen to kill elderly people who are suspected of practicing witchcraft.

Muchinga is a new Province which was created in 2011 and it borders Malawi and Tanzania.

It is a mostly rural region with a few towns dotted along the Great North Road which leads to the strategic border town of  Nakonde on the Zambia-Tanzania border.

The most affected districts are Isoka, Shiwangandu, Lavushimanda, Mafinga, and Nakonde.

According to Muchinga Province Police Commissioner Joel Njase, the killings are being done with the many illegal arms held by civilians.

Mr. Njase says some witch finders are also escalating the situation by pointing at elderly people as suspected witches.

“Police is still building more intelligence information on other suspects but we will act once we conclude our investigations. We also have a number of witch finders appearing (in court) for naming persons to be wizards,” said Mr. Njase in an interview with this blogger.

Most persons hiring the killers are said to be family members and the level of secrecy is too high.

Due to the underdeveloped nature of the area and illiteracy, some people believe that elderly people who either walk naked or talk to themselves are witches.

This is how some family members hire killers to clear their relatives.

“55 died in 2015 and the figures have being increasing reaching 86 in 2017 but reduced to 76 last year. This year so far we have 26 and the figure is expected to reduce further to below 40 by end of 2019,” he added.

Last week, Police in Nakonde mounted a major operation against illegal arms, arresting four suspects and recovering several guns.

All the suspects apprehended were charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and five muzzle Loaders.
Some of the guns confiscated from suspected gunmen

The oldest among the gunmen was 76 while the youngest was 19.

 Six muzzle loaders were recovered and Police suspects the guns have been used in the killings of elderly people on suspicion of practicing witchcraft in Uzinji and Chozi areas.

Authorities in the region are now calling on sensitizations of villagers on old age and what comes with it.

Muchinga Province Permanent Secretary Joyce Nsamba, on a visit to Mafinga District, said government will soon embark on a sensitization programme against the killings.

Ms Nsamba said it is unfortunate that people in rural areas are killing innocent old people, some of whom are not even involved in witchcraft.

Traditional leaders are now worried that their subjects are now living in fear of being targeted by hired gunmen.

However, it is not yet known how much the gunmen are paid to kill a suspected witch.