Zimbabwean Co-Minister of Home Affairs Teresa Makone said Wednesday that Harare is overrun by by the gang known as Chipangano which is alleged to have ties to President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF, beating residents and even attacking police officers.
The Chipangano organization, based in the heavily populated suburb of Mbare, has been stepping up criminal activities in recent days with extortion at bus terminals and seizing control of market stalls to such an extent it seems to have the run of the capital.
Witnesses said Chipangano gang members are brazenly committing robberies and assaults while the authorities fail to take action.
Makone told VOA that Chipangano youths assaulted commuter omnibus operators on Tuesday at the bus terminus opposite Harare Central Police Station, and beat up police officers who came to investigate the disturbance.
Mbare Member of Parliament Piniel Denga charged VOA Studio 7 LiveTalk Wednesday that Chipangano activities were being controlled through a local police station.
ZANU-PF officials, however, deny that Chipangano is in any tied to the party.
But Makone said the police are so powerless that they could not use teargas or arrest the youths who she charged are getting instructions from ZANU-PF headquarters.
The Home Affairs Ministry is nominally in charge of the police, but Makone said that the situation is completely out of control and she is powerless to act.
"So whether I am Minister of Home Affairs or not, if the very police that I am supposed to be superintending over are also beaten up where do we get redress?" Makone told VOA reporter Violet Gonda. "The situation is now totally out of control."
The Chipangano gang used to operate mainly in the so-called high-density suburbs or townships, but Deputy Harare Mayor Emmanuel Chiroto said there is now ‘anarchy’ throughout the city as the organization seizes control of every open space.
Zimbabwe Youth Forum Director Wellington Zindove said ZANU-PF must distance itself from Chipangano and condemn such violence. He told Tatenda Gumbo that even if the Chipangano youth claim they act alone without the support or direction of ZANU-PF the party is well known to be providing political cover for their activities.
Communications Manager Joram Nyathi of the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee set up to track compliance with the 2008 Global Political Agreement for power sharing declined to comment, referring a VOA reporter to the panel’s co-chairman, Elton Mangoma of the MDC formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
Mangoma said JOMIC has called the police and political leaders to a meeting Friday to determine why the police are failing to deal with the Chipangano gang.