Villagers in the Mbembesi area of Matabeleland North province have accused the police of protecting criminals after some arrested cattle rustling suspects were reportedly released from police custody under unclear circumstances.
The villagers said they now suspect that some police officers are conniving with cattle rustlers terrorising the area.
A villager, Elvis Kono, said people in the village no longer trust the police after the suspected rustlers were released before appearing in court.
“There is rampant stocktheft, especially of cattle. At times, we apprehend the thieves, but they are later released by the police before they appear in court. We later found out that the suspects work with the police who protect them. The community is now planning to lodge a complaint against the police,” Kono said.
He said recently, a cattle rustler was apprehended and members of the community meted instant justice on him.
“Some community members are now being hunted down by the police for assaulting the suspects,” he said.
“There are also cases of murder and armed robberies taking place in the Mbembesi area.”
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said he had not yet received complaints from Mbembesi villagers on the issue.
“I suggest that if the villagers have concerns, they must approach the officer commanding the province and he will assist them,” Nyathi said.