A GOLD panner from Lower Gweru died early yesterday morning after he was stabbed allegedly by four fellow illegal miners in a suspected turf war. Villagers from Pihli, Ward 7, under Chief Bunina told The Chronicle that the area had become a “war zone” with frequent bloody clashes involving armed gangs vying for control of gold claims.They said they discovered the bloodied body of Godlove Mgezelwa Sibanda (24) in a ditch soon after midnight. He had been stabbed on the chest and armpit. Police have arrested Marvelous Sibanda (20), one of the four people suspected to have attacked Godlove.
The other three are on the run. Villagers said the quartet had a running rivalry with Goodlove over goldfields. Detectives recovered an okapi knife with blood stains in Marvelous’ possession.
It is believed to be the murder weapon. Acting Midlands provincial police spokesperson Assistant Inspector Ethel Mukwende said investigations into the killing were underway. “We received a murder report which happened in Lower Gweru involving a male adult. One suspect has been arrested and investigations are in progress”.
The Chronicle visited the area at around 10AM and found villagers gathered around Godlove’s body which was covered with a blanket. Godlove’s brother — Mlungisi — said he was awoken by a phone call around midnight telling him his younger brother, a father of two, had been killed.
“That’s my brother lying there. He has two stab wounds, one on the chest and the other under the armpit. There is blood all over. One suspect has been arrested and we know him. Three other suspects are on the run,” he said. Mlungisi said Marvelous told the police that they attacked Godlove around 11PM on Wednesday as he was leaving Woodpecker night club.
He said Godlove and Marvelous had been involved in previous fights. Ward 7 councillor Mr Ronald Sibanda said the community was tired of the territorial gang wars. “These groups are always fighting. They go around carrying machetes and knives. We’re now afraid to send our children to the shops or anywhere unaccompanied,” he said.
Rain Mathulisa, a community leader and a Central Committee member of Zanu-PF, accused the police of turning a blind eye to the crimes taking place in the area.
“When you call the police to clear your cattle they come quickly because they know they will get money. But when we report cases of violence perpetrated by the groups, they don’t come. We’re disappointed with these police officers,” he said. A villager, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Godlove and Marvelous were bullies who had previous brushes with the law.
He said last week, Godlove had assaulted a fellow villager, adding that the community was shocked to see him roaming the area barely an hour after his arrest.
“You see, this area is close to Gweru River, it’s close to St Faith and Solomon areas where gold panning is rampant. So they carry their grudges from there and bring them home. These two belong to rival groups which are always fighting each other. They move around with machetes and knives saying they are for self defence,” said the villager.
According to court records, Godlove was once convicted of assault which left his victim with seven stitches on the head. Godlove appeared before Gweru magistrate Mr Tayengwa Chibanda on May 24 facing one count of assault and was sentenced to perform 350 hours of community service which he completed.
On the other hand, Marvelous was in 2014 convicted of rape by Regional magistrate Mr Morgan Nemadire. He was handed a three-year suspended sentence because he was said to have been under age. – state media