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Army killings must stop!

THE callous shooting of citizens during the protest against fuel hikes this week by security forces has put the military firmly under the spotlight.

Editor’s Memo: Faith Zaba

Faith Zaba

At least 10 people were shot dead with nearly 70 others treated for gunshot wounds as soldiers and police fought to quell the nationwide protests sparked by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s announcement of a 150% increase in the price of fuel.

We are against the destruction of property and lawlessness that resulted in the burning of vehicles and the looting of shops country.

Such deplorable behaviour has no place in society.

However, nothing justifies the use of live bullets on citizens such as that we have witnessed this week.

Nothing also justifies the brutality with which the armed forces dealt with ordinary citizens.

That this comes so soon after the commission of inquiry into the gunning down of six civilians in August last year is a damning indictment on the security apparatus of the country.

Soldiers are mandated to protect the country especially from foreign invasion and have no right to brutalise and kill civilians.

Members of the security services must act in accordance with the Zimbabwe constitution and the law which protect citizens’ fundamental rights, including that of life.

Section 208, sub-section 2(d) of the national constitution states that members of the security services may not violate fundamental rights or freedoms of any persons.

Scenes this week of soldiers and police beating up men, women and children and shooting at crowds were reminiscent of the apartheid days in South Africa and the Rhodesian era.

But what is sad is that this is happening in an independent Zimbabwe and the brutality being perpetrated by a black government on its black people — some of the poorest in the country.

To add insult and injury, soldiers have been going door to door, forcibly entering homes, damaging property and beating up citizens, sometimes in the dead of night in suburbs such as Mabvuku, Chitungwiza and Ruwa.

Even teenagers have not been spared this form of state-sponsored terror which is nothing short of disgraceful.

Soldiers, who were the country’s darlings during the coup which resulted in the resignation of former president Robert Mugabe in November 2017, have become the citizens’ worst nightmare and have turned into agents of terror.

It was like a war zone.

Children, where soldiers brandishing AK47 rifles and covering their faces with balaclavas, forced their way into their homes in the dead of the night, are now a traumatised lot.

During the past three days, the armed forces violated fundamental rights including rights to human dignity, personal security and freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Section 51 states that: “Every person has the right to bodily and psychological integrity, which includes the right to (a) to freedom from all forms of violence from public or private sources”.

The right to privacy is protected in the constitution, which states that no person has the right to enter a citizen’s home, premises or property without permission, or search his or her home, premises or property and have their communication infringed.

Like a horror movie scene, soldiers forcibly entered people’s home and made the men lie face-down while eight to 10 soldiers beat them up with wire sjamboks, batons and barbed wire.

Men and teen boys had to flee their homes in some instances to spend the cold night hiding in the hills and maize fields in the rain.

All this happened in the full view of Sadc and the AU, but there has not been any condemnation of these barbaric acts.

I wanted to point out that there is need for an enquiry into these violations, but then I remembered the cover-up after the August 1 killings in which six people were gunned down by soldiers in broad daylight.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa is currently on a whirlwind tour which includes state visits to Russia, Belarus and Switzerland where he seeks to strengthen the re-engagement process as well as seek an economic rescue package.

With some countries already expressing disquiet, among them the United States and the United Kingdom, the current five-nation visit by Mnangagwa risks being a wasted effort if he does not stop the indiscriminate murder of civilians.

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