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Zimbabwe President Mugabe Deplores Surge in Violent Crime in Country

Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena attributed the surge in murders to deepening poverty across the country, with petty arguments occurring over small sums of money, exacerbated by drunkenness

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has deplored a recent surge of violent crime in the country saying rapes, murders and armed robberies are a blight on society.

Addressing a Harare reception Thursday for officers returning from regional games in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the president urged the Zimbabwe Republic Police to crack down on such violent crimes to “ensure sanity prevails."

Mr. Mugabe said police should put as much into fighting crime as they did competing in regional police competitions. Zimbabwe police claimed 55 medals in the Southern African Regional Police Chief Cooperation Organization games in Lubumbashi, Congo.

"Crime, crime, crime. It's spoiling the relations of families, social, business and other activities in our country," Mr. Mugabe said. "We just have to work hard in combating crime as we have done so to win these accolades you have shown us today."

Co-Minister of Home Affairs Theresa Makone of the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said she was pleased to see police in the news for the right reasons. She praised the police as a disciplined, professional force, adding she was happy the force had continued to raise the country's flag high.

"Today we are happy that this is a disciplined force because without discipline, you will have not achieved results like these," Makone told the officers.

But political analyst Effie Dlela-Ncube told VOA reporter Chris Gande he was surprised by Makone’s praise of the police given its record of harsh treatment of her MDC party even as public confidence in the national police force has declined.

Police this week said 124 girls were raped in the first two weeks of September while murders also surged to 12 a week from four a week during the period.

Police said some of the rapes reflected negligence by parents and guardians who left minors in the custody of relatives and strangers for long periods of time.

Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said murder often results from poverty, with petty arguments occurring over small sums of money, and drunkenness. He said the highest number of rapes were seen in Harare, Mashonaland East and Midlands provinces.

Women's Trust Director Precious Gombera called the statistics shocking and told VOA reporter Violet Gonda that severe punishment must be imposed for such crimes.

Lawyers for Human Rights Director Irene Petras said the rise in crime shows that police must have sufficient funding so they can properly investigate such cases.

Meanwhile, the police say they have become more concerned with hard drugs, including heroine, which are finding their way into the country.

Criminal Investigations Department Drugs Section chief Luckson Mukazhi said nationals are being used by international drug cartels using the country as a transit point.

He said the couriers were being paid in drugs and not cash, leading to the hard drugs finding their way into communities, particular through schools.

Health Minister Henry Madzorera said new anti-drug programs are being launched.