A CRACK unit of the military working with other wings of the security apparatus is going on a rampage in Harare’s high-density suburbs, targeting civilians under the cover of darkness in a violent quest to quash simmering protests and social unrest over the looming introduction of bond notes, it has emerged.
A group of soldiers last Thursday evening assaulted patrons at a night spot in Budiriro 1, accusing them of rejecting bond notes and plotting demonstrations against the introduction of the controversial promissory currency.
President Robert Mugabe, currently facing one of his worst economic nightmares, in August vowed to quell dissent and avert an Arab Spring-style uprising.
Zimbabwe Independent chief sub-editor Zivisai Chagaka — one of the victims — had gone to the night spot to collect a friend when all hell broke loose and he became a target of the astonishing brutality unleashed by soldiers in Budiriro on civilians.
The troops in full combat gear, according to Chagaka, ordered the patrons to lie on their bellies before indiscriminately assaulting them.
“We were by the night spot when all of a sudden there was frenzied commotion as patrons who were milling in and around the club scampered inside. In a split second, uniformed soldiers barged in; a couple of them brandishing AK47s and improvised baton sticks which were in all size and manner,” said Chagaka who still has a bloodshot eye and several lacerations.
“They ordered everyone to lie down and they were asking, ‘So you are rejecting bond notes?’, ‘why are you rejecting the bond notes?’ as they started flogging people with the ‘baton sticks’, some clearly made from wires. Each soldier had a different kind of ‘baton stick’.”
Chagaka, who sustained several cuts and bruises, said the patrons were ordered out of the club after the vicious assault.
“Unbeknown to the patrons, the real terror awaited outside — a whole battalion had sealed the exit — and the beatings were even more severe and indiscriminate.”
He said he witnessed other revellers being flogged from the safety of his car. He could not locate his friend as chaos reigned supreme.
“Dejected, I started the car engine and calmly drove off. I knew my friend would survive,” he said.
The assaults come barely a few weeks after Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General Constantino Chiwenga ordered servicemen to accept bond notes despite public resistance.
Last month the government unleashed a quasi-military terror campaign on social movement activists and opposition political leaders to quash popular dissent against Mugabe’s rule amid rising tensions over a floundering economy.
This year, the imploding economy and a brutal crackdown on civil liberties have triggered a wave of demonstrations as Zimbabweans bear the brunt of high unemployment and a biting cash crisis.
Government has reacted to protests by unleashing the repressive state apparatus to pulverise demonstrators. Mugabe has sparked outrage by criticising the judiciary for handing down judgments allowing peaceful demonstrations.