Soldiers scare villagers at Mtshabezi

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Heavily armed soldiers have been deployed in the Mtshabezi area, Matabeleland South Province, a move that has left villagers here in a state of curiosity and fear.

A NewsDay team visited the area this week, saw soldiers patrolling and spoke to villagers who said they feared the deployment might be meant to instill fear in them and coerce them into taking certain sides as talk of possible elections gathers momentum

The soldiers have been spotted in the Madilihola area along the road leading to Bezha where the government is laying the Mtshabezi-Umzingwane water link pipeline.

Some villagers however believed the soldiers meant no harm but were there to protect the pipeline from vandalism.

Contacted for comment, Zimbabwe National Army spokesperson, Major Alphios Makotore said he was not prepared to take any questions over the phone.

“We don’t answer people on the phone,” he said before hanging up.

A villager who spoke to NewsDay on Thursday afternoon said: “On Tuesday, I was shocked to come across a group of soldiers who were armed with AK 47 rifles and an assortment of other weapons. I was walking on the main road on my way to the fields.”

“The soldiers seem to be camping in Mathendele as they always pass through here from that direction. We wonder what they are looking for here since there is no war.”

Deputy Prime Minister, Thokozani Khupe also confirmed the presence of soldiers in the area.
She told NewsDay she was “surprised” to see about 10 armed soldiers on the same road last week during her tour of the pipeline project.

“I was shocked to say the least,” Khupe said.

“One sympathises with the villagers really because they are clearly intimidated. This is a calculated move to instil fear and force them to vote for Zanu PF in the forthcoming polls.”

“The presence of soldiers may also unfortunately serve to remind villagers of Gukurahundi atrocities. It is a message to say ‘if you don’t vote for us, you may just face a repeat of the massacres,’ she said.

Another villager said the soldiers had set up a “mini-camp” near the Nsezi River.

“They have pitched up a tent in the bush there. From time to time they emerge and just patrol the area on foot carrying weapons. We don’t know what their mission is here as they have not spoken to anybody,” he said.

“On Saturday, I saw a lot of them moving up the road,” he said.