Soldiers from 4,2 Infantry Battalion in Gutu have allegedly banned the sale of an independent weekly paper, The Mirror, after it carried a story that army personnel had gone about beating up people at the sprawling growth point on Christmas Eve.
In its issue of January 7 to 13, the paper had a story headlined: “Soldiers run amok at Mupandawana”.
The story alleged that one soldier, Nxolise Ncube (22), was arrested after beating a policeman in the ensuing melee.
Ncube has since appeared before Gutu resident magistrate Amos Mbobo who last week sentenced him to a year in prison.
But the army said it was just an isolated bar brawl.
A newspaper vendor at Mupandawana growth point in Gutu who preferred anonymity for fear of retribution claims he was harassed and had since sent the papers back to Masvingo on the orders of the soldiers, who approached him at a shop on Saturday.
“One Colonel Banda came and ordered me not to sell the paper as it cast them in bad light.
“He told me to sell only The Herald if I wanted peace here,” the vendor said. The soldiers were also said to have stopped the sale of the paper at other designated points, saying they would burn it if ever they saw it. Mirror editor Golden Maunganidze said he was surprised to see piles of papers he had dispatched for sale back at his office on Sunday morning.
“We are shocked by the move to bar our paper in Gutu because we had written our story based on facts and we have since been vindicated by the courts that sentenced one of the rogue soldiers last week. The soldiers’ action is a typical violation of access to information by members of the public. Our paper circulates in some of the remote areas where the mainstream media may not penetrate. Now we have lost a lot of business because all vendors in the area are now afraid after the threats from the soldiers.
“Readers will also be afraid to buy the paper since they can be victimised. We do not know what will be the soldiers’ next move if they are not controlled,” Maunganidze said.
Masvingo Army Headquarters Four Brigade spokesperson Kingstone Chivave professed ignorance over the matter. “I am not aware of that, I have to enquire from Gutu to get what actually happened,” said Chivave.