Zimbabwe’s capability to investigate serious violent crimes could be at stake unless the law enforcement agencies quickly make an arrest especially at least of one of the suspects involved in the latest incident -the bombing of the Harare Sheraton.
This is particularly significant because three major crimes involving bombs or firearms committed in the past two years remain unsolved. And it appears the law enforcement agencies have resigned themselves and are pinning their hopes on the fact that with time people will forget.
On October 30, 19989 a Fawcett Security van carrying nearly $1 million worth of gold bullion was ambushed in broad daylight about 2.5 km from How Mine just outside Bulawayo. Two security guards were killed. Police were alerted about the incident within minutes of the robbery.
A massive manhunt was launched. A reward for $20 000 was even offered but up to now there had been no arrest.
On the day of the robbery some reports said the proper procedure had not exactly been followed. There were also some reports that another van that was behind the Fawcett Security’s was fired at apparently after overtaking the security van that had stopped at the side of the road.
Other reports said a Zimbabwe Omnibus Company bus carrying How Mine employees from Bulawayo to the Mine passed the parked van without stopping as nothing seemed to be wrong. Despite all these clues, police have up to now failed to apprehend the culprits.
This led to wide speculation that it could have been coordinated by people with connections at the top and were thus able to get the gold out of the country with a little help from their friends.
Proponents of these arguments said that because of Zimbabwe’s membership to Interpol, the International Police Organisation, if the authorities had really wanted to crack the case they could have, at least, stopped the sale of the gold anywhere in the world as there are now new techniques to easily identify the origin of the precious metal.
They argued that the only way this gold could be disposed of was through illegal dealers but it would take prominent criminals to know outside illegal dealers able to purchase that much gold.
In the early morning hours of February 2, 1990, while most people were enjoying their sleep, a powerful explosion blew up the decrepit Doric “Hotel”, a well-known haven for prostitutes. There was another manhunt. Speculation was rife that the 64-roomed brothel, which was definitely accommodating more than one woman to a room and some with their children, could have been blown up by a member of the security forces after perhaps being jilted or losing a lot of money to one of the prostitutes. Up to today no arrest has been made.
While some people might take this case lightly saying it was good riddance to a bad menace as the prostitutes who occupied the brothel were a disgrace to society, sight must not be lost of the fact that a crime was committed and that hundreds of innocent people could have died. As a crime it has to be solved.
The former brothel is now being renovated and with time people will forget it was once the notorious Doric Hotel or the fact that it was transformed into a decent place because of a bombing which remains unsolved.
Some months have now gone by since the bombing of the Sheraton in Harare, one of the most prestigious hotels in the country and the main centre for regional and international conferences including the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting scheduled for next month.
There were vows that the culprits would be hunted down. A security alert was immediately raised but with renovations almost complete the bombing seems to be playing second fiddle with the concentration now being on the summit meeting. The only thing that seems to be keeping the bombing in people’s minds are the various rumours circulating about who might have been responsible.
While none of the crimes mentioned above is unique and Zimbabwe is not the only country to have unsolved crimes what should be of concern is the impression created that it looks like there has been a sudden change in the effectiveness of the law enforcement agencies.
In the past the country was quick to make arrests or detect culprits responsible for bombings or other crimes. Arrests were quickly made although some of those arrested were later acquitted.
Ironically this happened while the country was still under a state of emergency -under which law enforcement agencies operated for more than a quarter of a century. At the time it was also all too easy to blame it on South Africa.
Could what is happening now therefore mean that our law enforcement people were so used to operating under the state of emergency that they cannot effectively function without it? If that is not the case why has there been such a dramatic change?
The way deputy Home Affairs Minister Dumiso Dabengwa has been harping on about police officers not bowing to politicians and political pressure seems to indicate that something is terribly wrong. Having been detained for several years, after independence, after being acquitted on treason charges Dabengwa obviously knows what he is talking about.
With reports that a crime or attempted crime is committed every minute in this country there is an urgent need to jack up the law enforcement agencies. This is particularly important if reports by the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries that 74 per cent of property stolen is not recovered are correct.