HARARE – The Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) has disowned soldiers reportedly harassing people in high density suburbs of Harare saying these should be reported to the police.
Residents in Harare and Chitungwiza reported that soldiers raided their suburbs where they beat up residents following the political mayhem that rocked the capital city on Wednesday resulting in some deaths.
Some of the Harare residential areas that were reportedly terrorised include Kuwadzana, Glen View, Glen Norah, Mbare and Westwood.
But ZDF spokesperson Overson Mugwisi said they never deployed soldiers to harass people in residential areas.
“The Zimbabwe Defence Forces has not deployed soldiers in any residential area to beat up people at night or any time of the day as alleged in your media query.
“If there are any individuals masquerading as our members committing crime, these might be criminals bent on tarnishing the image of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.
“They should therefore be reported to the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) for their appropriate action,” Mugwisi told the Daily News.
Residents were, however, adamant the army had deployed soldiers.
Tatenda Gozho who lives in Kuwadzana 2 said while they were enjoying their drinks at around 2200 hours they saw a truckload of soldiers. “They just jumped from the vehicle and started beating people in night clubs at Kuwadzana 2. Some were beaten while they were braaing. It was like a war, the situation was not good as many people were left with injuries.”
In Chitungwiza, people who own small businesses were forced to close their shops before 7pm while those who were trying to resist were beaten up.
The Daily News crew witnessed a ZRP marked vehicle which had armed men in camouflage ordering bottle stores and all drinking halls to close at Zvido Shopping Centre in Unit N and Taita Shopping Centre in Unit O.
As they drove past, revellers at various drinking spots scurried for cover while others stampeded on each other as they tried to force their way out of bottle stores and sports bars.
In Mbare, Glenview and Westwood — residents had a torrid time as soldiers were beating people telling them to go and sleep before the presidential election results announcement.
“I think the soldiers feared that people were going to cause chaos after the announcement of the results because they were terrorising people during the night and it’s so sad because we are saying that our country is open for business but it’s now open for beatings.
“As residents we are not happy at all this must stop because we are a peace-loving nation,” Tapiwa Chaka a Glen View resident said.
Back in central Harare, truckloads of soldiers were seen patrolling and raiding night clubs where revellers were bludgeoned without reason or explanation as they fled from the city centre fearing for their lives.
Trouble started on Wednesday when angry MDC Alliance supporters demonstrated in the city accusing the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), of working with Zanu PF to rig the elections in favour of Zanu PF and its presidential candidate Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Government responded to the protests by unleashing soldiers and the police onto the streets.
In a statement, legal watchdog Veritas said the president is the only person responsible for the deployment of soldiers.
“Section 213 of the Constitution states that ‘only the president, as commander-in-chief’, has power to authorise the deployment of the Defence Forces, and that, with his authority, they may be deployed within Zimbabwe ‘in support of the police service in the maintenance of public order’.
“Obviously the Defence Forces should not be deployed lightly. Their members are trained to kill rather than to use peaceful means of persuasion.
“They are the ultimate coercive arm of the State, to be used only as a last resort when gentler ways of compelling citizens to obey the law have failed. That is why the Constitution reserves to the president the right to order their deployment.”