Second AK47 fatal shooting at Gweru army base expose gun handling laxity
Six soldiers were on Sunday arrested in Gweru after they fatally shot a villager, Tatenda Munetsiwa in the Guinea Fowl area about five kilometres from the city centre.
According to a police memo dated January 17, last Saturday six army officers, Lance Corporal Fortune Mambure, Lieutenant Shaibu Ndara, Corporal Zinyama Prince, Corporal Matenda Willard, Lance Corporal Walter Chikwada and Lance Corporal Simbarashe Mashongahande booked an AK47 rifle serial number 60253 which has 28 rounds of ammunition with the intention to make patrols targeting copper thieves in the area.
The soldiers dressed in civilian attire later had a clash with villagers on the fateful night leading to the shootout.
Three years ago a soldier, Carlos Chapeyama, stationed at the same Guinea Fowl base was assigned to guard a nearby Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation transmitter. After knocking off duty on that night, the army man sneaked out of the camp with a service AK47 hidden in a bag.
Chapeyama who had a long standing domestic dispute with his now deceased wife headed to Bulawayo’s New Magwegwe suburb where upon arrival he fired 20 shots killing his spouse and her two siblings leading to the death of the trip on the spot.
He turned the gun on his 18 months daughter injuring her before shooting himself in a failed suicide attempt.
In 2019 Chapeyama was convicted on three counts of murder and attempted murder at the Bulawayo High Court but escaped being hanged due to ill health. He was however sentenced to 25 years behind bars.
In both incidences though different in nature, AK47 guns taken from the camp claimed the lives of civilians.
What is peculiar however is the manner the guns are booked raising eyebrows on the strictness of weapons handling at army bases.
In Chapeyama’s case he managed to sneak with a hidden gun and travel more than 150km to kill three sisters including his wife.
Last Saturday’s scene saw six soldiers dressed in civilian clothes carrying a gun and patrolling a village for copper cable thieves.
According to the police memo they allegedly went around beating people they met along the way accusing them of being copper thieves.
The memo further showed that after the shooting one of the army officers, Mambure allegedly hid the gun which 18 remaining rounds of ammunition under his bed. The six however did not report the incident to their superior.
“Investigations were done at Guinea Fowl army base. The base occurrence book indicates that the six accused persons booked out an AK47 rifle with 28 rounds on patrol at 2045 hours in the same area where the body was found. The accused booked in at about 2220 hours. They never informed the the base commander about the shooting incident,”read the memo.
According to the report two other complainants were allegedly shot and one injured. Munetsiwa Matambanadzo was shot on the left thigh, Garai Vakai on the left side of the chest while Simon Chitsino was assaulted all over the body with iron bars, fists and booted feet.
The three later reported to Guinea Fowl army base commander Major Hlabiso thinking they had been attacked by robbers.
Although the six have since been arraigned before the courts Midlands provincial police spokesperson Inspector Emmanuel Mahoko said investigations were still to be concluded and referred further questions to national police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi.
Without referring to the army officers case, Mahoko however said neighborhood watch committees could team up to secure their areas but “within reasonable limits.”
The police memo revealed that the accused allegedly cited self defence as a reason for firing at the villagers.
But over the years human rights activists have questioned the handling of fire arms by law enforcement agents that have claimed civilian lives and left many injured.