OVER 200 villagers from Matshetshe area under Chief Masuku in Gwanda yesterday armed themselves with machetes and axes and burnt down three homesteads belonging to suspected cattle rustlers in Insindi.
They descended on Insindi resettlement area baying for the blood of the suspected stock thieves and gave an ultimatum to people who were resettled in the area to move elsewhere if they did not want to be burnt alive.
The mob went to the homestead of one of the suspects, Lovemore Moyo, and destroyed his four bedroomed house and a makeshift kitchen before setting the structures ablaze. The villagers had first asked Moyo’s wife, Precious Noku, to take to safety his children’s birth certificates and some cattle clearing forms. They then set everything else alight.
Their next target was Sylvester Hogo whose three bedroomed house which was near completion was also razed to the ground.
His neighbour, a traditional healer, Marble Ndlovu’s homestead was also targeted.
They burnt a kitchen hut and a mud bedroom structure in which over 20 bags of cement were being kept.
Armed with machetes, knobkerries, hoes, picks, shovels and axes the villagers sang war songs as they destroyed the homes.
The mob later rounded up all the resettled farmers and their workers in the area and gave them an ultimatum to move out of the area if they did not want to be attacked as well. Moyo’s wife was interrogated by the villagers and revealed that her husband fled the homestead three weeks ago after police came looking for him for stock theft.
“I used to see him coming with different cattle telling me that he had bought them. Some he exchanged with other people from Shanyaugwe where he originally comes from and others were transported to Bulawayo for slaughter. He would bring the cattle here and pen them before he and his workers loaded them into trucks during the night,” she said.
Villagers who spoke to The Chronicle said they have lost over 200 head of cattle to rustlers whom they suspected were led by Moyo and Hogo.
John Sizane Maseko claimed that he lost 19 beasts and said the newly resettled farmers should leave the area as they were responsible for the thefts.
“They built their homesteads in our grazing area and when our cattle come here they steal and slaughter them.
“The government should find alternative land to resettle these people. We’re tired of them,” said Maseko.
Another villager, Linos Sibanda, said over 200 cattle have disappeared from the area.
Chief Masuku and Matabeleland police spokesperson, Assistant Inspector Nkosilathi Sibanda, could not be reached for comment yesterday