Chivhu residents were left in awe of the manner in which security services tracked, shot and killed two gunmen who had attacked two other soldiers on Saturday, killing one and seriously wounding another.
Residents said the follow-up and chase by the security forces led by the army could only have been the work of a specialised team.
The small, mainly transit and farming town, which had endured a long weekend of chatter, almost came to a standstill when two army trucks drove through late Saturday evening on a search and find mission. And they did not disappoint.
Starting their mission at the crack of dawn on Sunday, the two gunmen had been accounted for by mid-morning, resulting in jubilation by the residents as the news filtered through.
In a show of support and appreciation, the residents gave a guard of honour to the soldiers as they drove out of Chivhu on Sunday afternoon.
An ominous wind, which had blown through Chivhu the day before, had given residents of this sprouting town more attention than usual, summoning a coordinated response from the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Zimbabwe National Army.
Investigations by The Herald in Chivhu at the weekend established that soldiers in two army trucks were immediately deployed to Chivhu as soon as reports of the shooting incident reached authorities in Harare.
They got into Chivhu at night and waited for daybreak to revisit the scene together with officers from other law enforcement agencies.
The team then visited the crime scene at Innscor food court, where it immediately picked a spoor.
It followed the trail of the two gunmen into the bush.
The assailants had escaped into the bush using a pathway between the food court and Liebenberg Primary School at the edge of Chivhu town along the Harare-Masvingo Highway, combing nearby bushes for clues.
The search led them deep into the nearby forest. Along the way, they interviewed members of the public for information regarding the pair’s movements, asking them if they had come across any suspicious characters and if they were armed.
The crack team is said to have used GPS technology to zero in on the position of the two gunmen.
The team sensed that it was getting closer to confronting the gunmen when the last member of the public to give them information, who had a speech impairment, used hand signals to direct them to where the two were hiding.
After a brief search, the team tracked the assailants who were hiding on an anthill about 16 kilometres from Chivhu town along Gutu road.
When the gunmen realised that their position had been found, they retreated into a ditch seeking cover.
“They acted as if they were anticipating a firefight with the crack team,” a source told The Herald.
“There was an exchange of fire for a few minutes. One of the gunmen knew how to operate a firearm as he was shooting manual and appeared to be using the AK47 assault rifle that they had stolen from the soldiers they had attacked the previous day,” said the source.
Security forces took the fight to the hiding gunmen, leading to the fatal shooting of the experienced gunman first.
The other one, who was said to be a novice, showing very little combat knowledge tried to escape, abandoning the ditch while continuing to shoot at the advancing team and again, he was shot a few metres from his colleague.
In the gunfight, Corporal Stanalious Chiunye who was leading the team, was shot on the leg.
The drama had started on Saturday afternoon when two men stormed a police post armed with a pistol and shot two soldiers who were helping with the enforcement of Covid-19 regulations.
Victims of the attack, Lance Corporal Lorance Mupanganyama (deceased) and Corporal Zvirevo (injured) had barely been in Chivhu for three days when the attack occurred.
“These soldiers had just come into the area and in the short time they were here, they had already made friends with people because of the manner in which they conducted themselves and their duties.
“They went around educating people on Covid-19 and were encouraging social distancing. As far as I know, they did not have problems with anyone,” an elderly vendor told The Herald.
Like most people in the town on Saturday, she was sceptical of entertaining questions around the much-talked about incident that had been subject of both speculation and conjecture.
“It is not true that people were being beaten up before the incident. These boys (soldiers) actually bought airtime from me before they went back to the police post,” she said, dismissing some social media rumours doing rounds. She also dismissed the story of the altercation which was said to have triggered the incident.
The good manner in which the two soldiers had conducted themselves since their deployment in the small town was reason why citizens quickly sprang to their assistance after the incident.
All the vendors who spoke to The Herald said the two quietly went about their business professionally.
One of the good Samaritans who helped the soldiers get medical attention, wished Corporal Zvirevo a speedy recovery, such was how he had endeared himself to the community.
“When we got into the police post, we saw the two soldiers lying on the floor. One was in pain, trying to bravely get up while the other was lifeless.
We rushed him to Chivhu hospital in a colleague’s vehicle, where we heard he was later transferred to Harare,” he said.