Knife-crime spree sweeps Zim

HARARE - Another stabbing in the Epworth neighbourhood, not with an axe, but a knife.

The jacaranda was in bloom and the residents were going about their innocent business.

At 3pm, a terrible screaming was heard coming from a nearby home and when police arrived, they found a man lying bleeding, knife on one side, meat cleaver on the other.

A 30-year-old Epworth tenant Archiford Chikwanda had stabbed his landlord Robert Muzanenhamo with an Okapi knife on the stomach for poking his nose into his marital affairs.

The knife killing which followed was worse.

It was daylight, but this time, the crime scene was Chitsungo Village in Mbire District in Mashonaland Central.

A man and wife were walking down a road. Witnesses said the incensed hubby stabbed Owen Dzobo on Christmas day after he greeted his wife by her first name.

As the now-familiar yellow crime-scene tape was bagging gently in the breeze; the familiar fat and anxious young officer standing by, other villagers asked: “What happened?”

He said: “Oh, not to worry, madam. Just a knife killing.”

Not to worry, just a knife killing!?

As knife crime rises across the country, this has become the mantra of Zimbabwe’s citizens.

A bloody knife-crime wave sweeping across Zimbabwe has left a slew of wives, teenagers and young adults dead or seriously injured.

And the numbers seem to keep piling up.

Gone are the days when a grisly stabbing would be the subject of horrified and excited talk.

Far from it.

“Stabbing? Oh… that, it was just a fight,” one neighbour was heard saying.

The more brutal the murder, the more studiously casual the response.

Knife crime has increased in Zimbabwe for the first time in years, with the number of assaults with blades rising sharply.

Infact, knives are now consistently used to kill people far more often than guns are used.

Between January 1 and 5 this year,  seven knife murders were recorded, according to the latest set of police recorded crime figures.

The rise in the number of knife murders brings to an end a decade in which the murder rate has been falling despite the continued growth in the population.

Senior assistant commissioner Charity Charamba, head of police public relations, said the rise in knife crime was real and worrying.

Describing the statistics as a reversal of what they have seen in recent years, she described the escalation as “very strange and very foreign to us.”

“And we are saying this use of knives should stop,” Charamba said.

“Knives are used to kill animals and other things not to kill other human beings.”

After years of success in driving knife crime down, Charamba said this rise in brutal and sadistic murders was a worrying development, and efforts to educate people about the dangers of carrying knives must be stepped up.

“The police are going to embark on an operation to weed out these people who carry knives.

“There are people who carry knives that are not allowed and knives should never be used to kill other human beings,” she said.

“If you have information on anyone who victimises, who threatens, or intimidates other people with knives, please report to the nearest police station or the national complaints number on 04 - 703 631.”

The increase in knife crime is one factor fuelling the increase in the police recorded crime figures.

It is not, however, clear that Zimbabwe is getting any more dangerous.

Indeed, despite the apparent surge in knife crimes, the government says the number of reported crimes has tumbled.

Rather than delve too deeply into the root causes of the attacks, the media recount every horrific murder, always with gory details, often with poignancy.

But the escalation in knife crime rates like these show that something is broken.

Social commentators believe that the escalation in murders is also a culmination of the economic hardships bedevilling the country and people from various backgrounds should work together to deal with the problem.

The courts have imposed deterrent sentences to show displeasure at the use of violence in resolving conflicts.

The Home Affairs ministry has also made reducing violence, including knife crime, a priority and continues to work closely with the police and other organisations to tackle the drivers of these crimes.

Knife murders are covered under the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, which brings together in one single statute all the major aspects of criminal law. Section  49 covers culpable homicide, with the crime extended to cover situations where there is conscious negligence.

Assault is covered under Section 89 of the Code, but there is no longer a distinction between common assault and assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, with seriousness only affecting sentence.

Administration of noxious substances is now treated as a species of assault.

Section 90 covers negligent assault, with this new crime covering situations where harm has been negligently inflicted.

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