POLICE have expressed concern over the proliferation of illegal firearms, some smuggled into the country, as the law enforcement agency sweats over a spate of armed robberies and violent crimes of passion.

Figures released by Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency show that cases of armed robbery rose from 214 in 2016 to 1 000 last year.

No figures are available for the first six months of this year. Home Affairs deputy minister Ruth Maboyi said illegal firearms were finding their way into the country because of porous borders.

“We are also very worried about the illegal weapons which are being used,” Maboyi told Parliament last week.

“Once we are given information, we will arrest those with illegal firearms, but what you can see is that we have problems and the police are really on top of the situation.”

According to police, Uzis, CZ pistols, .303 and automatic rifles are the popular guns being used by robbers. AK-47s have also been used by suspected serving or retired soldiers.

Two soldiers shot dead a man in a US$40 000 heist in Hatfield, Harare, on December 24 last year.

Earlier, an on-duty soldier from the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA)’s elite commando regiment was identified as one of the alleged armed robbers involved in the fatal shootout at former top police detective Joseph Nemaisa’s Chadcombe house on December 6.

A year ago, two soldiers allegedly connived with security guards at a bank and stole US$2,7 million.

Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said there was gross misuse and smuggling of firearms, resulting in an increase in robbery cases and crimes of passion.

“Certainly procedures are being followed, but one disturbing issue that we have observed is misuse of firearms. If a person dies in possession of a firearm, it must be surrendered to the police for the necessary procedures to be followed,” Nyathi told a panel discussion on Tuesday night aired on ZBC-TV.

“You end up having situations whereby some firearms are being taken by children and used to commit crime. We also have cases whereby couples have disagreements and misuse firearms … We have firearms being smuggled into the country and in some instances, they are hired by criminals.”

Nyathi said the law was very clear on who should possess a firearm, and for what purpose.

“It’s not automatic that if Yvonne or Fadzayi apply for a firearm licence or authority, they will get one. No. The Firearms Act clearly outlines how one should possess a firearm. To legally own a firearm, one has to go through vetting to justify why you should have it. One has to go through the vetting process where we check mental capacity and where the gun will be stored,” he said.

This follows the shooting of the late Samantha Dzapata in Waterfalls, Harare, last week by her ex-lover Tafadzwa Murengwa, who later committed suicide.

“A reason normally given by people is that ‘I am a big farmer who is into crop protection. I push high volumes in terms of farming.’ There are also miners and security companies involved in cash in transit,” Nyathi said.

“A firearm authorised for use in mining premises or on a farm should not be carried home. A firearm at home needs a gun cabinet. These are the procedures which prospective firearm owners should go through.”

Source Newsday