Underfire army sets up hotline numbers

THE underfire Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) yesterday established hotline numbers that people could use to report any acts of misconduct by anyone “purporting” to be a soldier in the wake of widespread acts of brutality against civilians by people in military fatigue.

BY EVERSON MUSHAVA/VENERANDA LANGA

“The Zimbabwe National Army has noted with concern allegations of misconduct and acts of violence by people purporting to be members of the organisation,” ZNA spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Alphios Makotore, said in a statement.

Since last week, soldiers and police officers have been cracking down against opposition supporters and people suspected to have participated in recent violent protests against the fuel price hikes, amid reports of torture of civilians and raping of women.

People beating up civilians will be armed to the teeth with AK-47 assault rifles and in army and police uniforms, while also using military and police trucks.

The police and the military recently issued a joint statement claiming brutality on civilians was being perpetrated by some ex-military elements using stolen uniforms.

National police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba and Zimbabwe Defence Forces spokesperson Colonel Overson Mugwisi could, however, not explain where the former officers were getting the arms and service trucks they were using to brutalise the civilians.

“The actions by these bogus elements have subsequently put the image of the organisation into disrepute,” Makotore said.

“In view of the forgoing, the ZNA would like to urge members of the public to report any acts of misconduct by anyone purporting to be a member of the organisation using the following military police hotline number 0712 842 318, 0786 452 155.”

On Thursday night, soldiers and police officers allegedly went on a rampage in Harare’s Kuwadzana high-density suburb and forced out a young man, tortured him, accusing him of possessing some petrol bombs before dumping him about 20km away from his home along Harare-Bulawayo Highway after searching his place of residence and finding nothing incriminating.

The matter was reported at Kuwadzana 2 Police Station under case number RRB 3873960.

According to the victim, three armed people in civilian clothes knocked at his door for over 30 minutes and they called for reinforcements after he had refused to open the door.

“Three Nissan NP300 trucks soon arrived and behind them was a police truck with armed uniformed police and military officers. They ordered me to open the door or they would break it,” he said.

“I opened and they ransacked my house, claiming they were looking for a petrol bomb. After finding nothing, they asked me where I worked, where my wife worked, the ages of my children and where they attend school. They took me away, tortured me, tore my shirt and blindfolded me and threatened to feed me to lions (at Lion and Cheetah Park).”

Meanwhile, the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (Nango) has demanded that soldiers must immediately be sent back to the barracks and the police perform their duties of protecting citizens and stick to their constitutional mandate after reports of abuse of citizens by law enforcement agents increased.

In a communiqué released yesterday, Nango said: “We are still concerned with the continued presence of soldiers within communities and demand that soldiers immediately go back to the barracks and police play their role of protecting and serving citizens.

“In the same vein, we condemn the law enforcement agents that exude a semblance of being political because law enforcement agents should at all times stick to their constitutional mandate.”

The NGO body also demanded that political parties refrain from giving instructions to law enforcement agents.

“Nango is concerned and notes that intra and inter-political party violence and discord is escalating at the expense of national development. This comes amid incessant corruption in government, poor service delivery, decline in health care and education systems and the general contempt for the rule of law by the military and the police,” the group said.

“We strongly condemn wanton attacks and abductions of civilians and demand an immediate end to abuses and that security of the citizens is ensured.”

They also said children’s rights must be protected after reports emerged that they were also arrested in last week’s clampdown on protesters.

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