The Zimbabwe Defence Forces’ (ZDF) stance that soldiers will remain on the streets is regrettable considering the trauma Zimbabweans have suffered in recent weeks.
Over 100 people suffered gunshot wounds after a stay-away called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions last month over President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s announcement of a 150-percent fuel price hike turned violent. At least 12 people lost their lives during the disturbances, while property was also destroyed.
However, many innocent Zimbabweans were caught up in the crossfire as security agencies launched a brutal crackdown on suspected looters.
Civilians narrated gory tales of the suffering they went through at the hands of the military while there have also been claims of rape by a number of women allegedly perpetrated by men in military uniform.
Speaking at a press conference in Harare on Wednesday night, ZDF major-general Douglas Nyikayaramba denied the army had a hand in these killings, beatings and rapes despite widespread video evidence to the contrary.
He said protesters destroyed 165 shops owned by ordinary members of the public, overran police stations, burnt police and public transport vehicles and also killed citizens, including a police officer.
The general also said protesters broke into armouries, stealing weapons and ammunition.
Nyikayaramba also said soldiers will continue patrolling the streets until the police say their services are no longer required.
Curiously, the decorated military boss also claimed the situation has returned to normal and there were no more prospects of violence breaking out. This is clear contradiction coming from the ZDF because on one hand, they are saying the military will remain on the streets but at the same time, they are acknowledging the situation is now peaceful and calm. The majority of Zimbabweans feel the soldiers should return to their barracks and let citizens enjoy their peace without any intimidation from the armed forces.
The ZDF has a fully-functioning military intelligence department whose responsibility is to work behind the scenes and raise alarm to their generals if there is any planned attack. Having soldiers dressed in full combat gear and balaclavas patrolling our streets during peace time is the highest form of intimidation the ZDF is perpetrating on civilians.
The situation is even worse when there have been reports of beatings and other transgressions that have been blamed on the military.
Ironically, these are the same soldiers who posed for selfies with ordinary people in November 2017.