'Soldiers must return to the barracks'

HARARE – Civil society organisations have said members of the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) must return to the barracks, further calling for the setting up of an independent body to investigate reports of civilian abuse by soldiers.

Soldiers are still in the streets following a takeover of government last month, which saw the resignation of former president Robert Mugabe, leading to president Emmerson Mnangagwa’s appointment.

However, there have been reports of human rights abuses, as videos of soldiers beating civilians have emerged on social media.

The Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), said this must come to an end and be investigated.

“The Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) is alarmed by increasing reports of military officers violently attacking members of the public that have surfaced on social media.

“There have been alleged cases of military officers beating up members of the public with some cases being captured on camera.

“Military officers made up 24,4 percent of perpetrators of recorded cases in the ZPP November monthly monitoring report that records human rights violations compared to only 0,6 percent in the previous month,” the organisation said.

It further said, “The ZPP is challenging the ZDF to immediately investigate these cases of human rights violations that are not acceptable at any stage.

“If any members of the military are found perpetrating these incidents, the ZDF is encouraged to take action and make this information readily available to the citizens who are now instilled with fear.

“The ZPP feels that the military should be in the barracks in line with the fact that they are the last line of defence.”

The organisation said the issue of the soldiers must be addressed without delay, as the military is not equipped to deal with civilians.

Another human rights organisation Heal Zimbabwe, also expressed concern over the continued presence of the military on the streets.

“Heal Zimbabwe wishes to register its dismay at recent reports that allege gross human rights abuse by members of the security services. Reports of soldiers abusing innocent civilians have been reported in many parts of the country with the most recent ones in Kwekwe,” the organisation said.

Heal Zimbabwe described the situation as deplorable, adding that it goes against every grain of the constitutional provisions.

“Government must also with immediate effect set up an independent complaints mechanism as provided for in Section 210 of the Constitution.

“The role of the complaints mechanism is to receive and investigate complaints from members of the public about misconduct on the part of members of the security services and for remedying any harm by such misconduct.

“There is an urgent need for soldiers to return to the barracks and allow people to go about their business without fear of being harassed and attacked by members of the uniformed forces,” Heal Zimbabwe said.