HomeNewsHarshly treated, just for passing by

Harshly treated, just for passing by

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Several of President Robert Mugabe’s guards have died while on duty since Zimbabwe attained Independence in 1980 with several civilians having been severely assaulted after passing through “protected areas”.

REPORT BY EVERSON MUSHAVA  CHIEF REPORTER

Cases of soldiers harassing and assaulting passers-by are quite common. In Harare, areas around Mugabe’s official residence, State House, his Munhumutapa offices and Radio Zimbabwe’s Mbare Studios are notorious.

The matter has never been brought to public debate because no high-profile individuals have been victims. There are stories that a lost white motorist was shot dead near the State House.

Unconfirmed reports place the number of Presidential Guard members who have died since 1980 to over 10 — two died this year — while many civilians assaulted near Mugabe’s residence could not be established because attacks have gone unreported.

Only recently, a lead biker in Mugabe’s speedy motorcade of around 10 vehicles — including the presidential limousine, a Mercedes-Benz, motorcycles and army vehicles — was killed after the bike hit a truck and caught fire — the fourth accident this year involving the veteran ruler’s motorcade. In June, one person was killed by Mugabe’s motorcade just outside his rural home in Zvimba. In another incident, a police outrider in the presidential cavalcade was thrown off his motorbike after hitting a homeless man along the Harare-Bulawayo Road in Harare.

Earlier in the same month, a member of the Presidential Guard, Jeoffrey Mukotekwa, died from injuries sustained after an open-top Toyota Cruiser ferrying Mugabe’s sharp-shooters burst a rear tyre and overturned in Murombedzi, injuring several others.

While police have attributed these deaths to negligent, motorists who fail to respect the presidential motorcade, many people have blamed the crew for failing to attend to accidents in time, particularly in the recent accident.

Apart from accidents, more casualties have been recorded for supposedly trespassing at Mugabe’s official residence, with some people saying soldiers and police manning such places have occasionally overreacted against innocent civilians.

Some claimed on the NewsDay Facebook page that they were assaulted for no apparent reason by Mugabe’s over-enthusiastic security personnel.

Just recently, a gardener working in the leafy suburb of Borrowdale, claimed he was assaulted for passing by pushing his bicycle that had been damaged while in town when commuter omnibus crews were fleeing from soldiers.

He said he was first asked why he was not riding his bicycle by policemen. He explained his case and was allowed to pass before a soldier ordered him to follow him. He abandoned him inside and a group of solders assaulted him after he failed to meet the target of 100 press-ups as ordered.

He was forced off carrying, not pushing, his bicycle and no explanation was given as to why he should do so.

Many people said they were assaulted after their vehicles broke down while passing outside Mugabe’s residence.

“Yes, I was once assaulted, the guard wanted a cigarette and I did not have one because I do not smoke. For that alone, I was made to roll in water for 30 minutes,” said one victim.

Another one said: “I was ordered to do a 100 press-ups after our truck failed to engage into the right gear.”

Others questioned why people were being harassed by policemen on guard when they stop at Munhumutapa Building along Samora Machel Avenue, yet there are no restriction signs, not even one barring the use of cellphones when passing the area.

“People are not beaten up for taking pictures of the White House in Washington DC. You can actually book a tour of its rooms. What is there to fear and protect from the very people who put you in that house?” asked one person.

Its not about passing through Mugabe’s residence and office, many have also found themselves at the wrath of the law for utterances deemed to be derogatory to the country’s highest office.

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