STATE brutality against civilians, is worryingly on a continued upward course with violations by the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) accounting for 14% of of human rights abuses thus far, an April Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) report has said.
After the November 2017 heights in which the army was fettered, the situation according to the report had degenerated in a climate of fear between citizens and civilians.
“The fact that in Zimbabwe they are being ostensibly used in targeting civilians is truly an issue that needs immediate remedying.
“Presently, civilians’ relations are fraught with fear and suspicion as a result of shootings and violence meted on civilians during the August 1st 2018 shootings and this year’s January 14 to 22 violence,” said the ZPP.
According to the ZPP the army is supposed to be used against a nation’s enemies not turned into weapons of fear and coercion against citizens.
The rights watchdog made reference to the recent incident in Bindura’s Chiwaridzo township, where two soldiers were murdered by a gang of gold panners known in the area ‘Mashurugwi’ after an altercation over sex workers as an indicator of how relations had deteriorated.
“Two soldiers who survived the attack then returned with reinforcements in a retaliatory door to door exercise in Chiwaridzo assaulting residents.
“They attacked residents in Ward 12 and patrons at a night club watching soccer were not spared,” the report revealed.
In another incident, the ZPP claims the army was also involved in a joint effort with the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) in evicting villagers from, Ward 16 of Gokwe Mapfungautsi Constituency State owned farm in Sikombela and Chemagora areas.
Other villagers were also forcibly moved from a farm owned by Zanu PF, Silobela lawmaker, Mthokozisi Mayoki Mpofu.
“Soldiers’ involvement in civilian matters such as evictions from farms is a cause of concern.
“In Chimanimani East, freelance journalist Sydney Saize was assaulted while on official duty. Saize was investigating an allegation that soldiers were sexually abusing female Cyclone Idai survivors in exchange for food aid at Chimanimani High School camp,” said the report.
“ZPP understands that Saize arrived at the school and took pictures of the place, interviewed a few people before members of the military and national (youth) service youths took seized him.”
Despite having identified himself as a media practitioner, the report reveals, Saize was harassed and assaulted during an interrogation exercise in which he was forced to “accept” food aid while his captors filmed before the footage was released onto social media.