Soldiers taken off the streets

HARARE – The Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) has withdrawn soldiers from the streets, bringing to an end a five-week operation which led to the resignation of former long time ruler Robert Mugabe, who was replaced by his long time aide, Emmerson Mnangagwa, during the historic political events of last month.

Yesterday’s announcement of the withdrawal of soldiers from the streets  came days after rights and political groups expressed concerns during a meeting in the United States on the prolonged participation by the military in civillian politics.

The military on November 13 launched “Operation restore legacy” which started with the military warning Mugabe and his brawling Zanu PF that it would intervene in their affairs — before leading to a series of events which led to Mugabe’s resignation after being placed under house arrest for several days.

Announcing the withdrawal of the troops from the streets yesterday, newly-appointed Commander of the Defence Forces — Phillip Valerio Sibanda — said they had achieved their goals and were handing back civilian powers to the police whom they expected “to fully take over their responsibilities and perform according to their constitutional mandate and Client Service Charter”.

“Operation restore legacy was launched on 13 November 2017 and its main objective was to remove criminals that had surrounded the former president resulting in anxiety and despondence among our people. While some of the individuals have been accounted for, others skipped the country.

“This notwithstanding, the objectives of the operation have to a large extent been achieved. Besides the above-mentioned objective, ‘Operation restore legacy’ has had wider implications on the political, economic and social activities of our people. In this regard, a new political dispensation has been ushered-in to take Zimbabwe into its rightful place within the Sadc and the world at large,” said Sibanda.

“As ‘Operation restore legacy’ comes to an end, it is our hope as your Defence and Security Services that our people will remain united, shun corruption, be law abiding and focus on working hard for the development of our country.

“Today as the Defence Forces handover all normal day-to-day policing duties to the Zimbabwe Republic Police we to urge all our citizens to allow for a smooth transition.

“Members of the public are urged to respect, support and cooperate with the police as they execute their constitutional mandate. On the other hand, the Zimbabwe Republic Police are expected to fully take over their responsibilities and perform according to their constitutional mandate and Client Service Charter,” he added.

The military announced on November 15 that it had intervened in civilian matters and immediately placed Mugabe and his wife, Grace, under house arrest while it targeted “criminals” around the 93-year-old former Zanu PF leader.

Several officials, including Cabinet ministers who were part of the Generation 40 (G40) faction who were targeted either skipped the country or were detained.

G40 kingpins such Saviour Kasukuwere and Jonathan Moyo sought sanctuary at Mugabe’s residence before they skipped the country but Ignatius Chombo and former Zanu PF youth leader, Kudzanai Chipanga, were not so lucky.

Chombo was seized from his home and spent several days in detention before he was arrested by police on allegations of corruption.

He is currently on bail. Chipanga, who was arrested and later appeared in court on undermining the defence forces, is also on bail.

For five weeks, the military has been very visible on the country’s major highways and some streets as it temporarily took over civillian policing.

Last week rights groups and leaders from the opposition MDC gave testimonies to a United States senate in Washington where they expressed concerns over the continued presence of soldiers on the streets.

Sibanda, in his statement, appeared to answer this.

“We understand and regret the inconvenience and anxiety that this operation caused in certain circles of our nation,” he said.

Meanwhile, the MDC welcomed the withdrawal of troops from civillian policing.

“For a very long time now, the MDC has been calling for the return to their barracks of members of the military who had been deployed on the streets of various cities, towns and growth points.

“The MDC believes in the institution of a civilian as opposed to a military government to run all the operations of the State. Indeed, Section 212 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe states that the function of the Defence Forces is to protect Zimbabwe, its people, its national security and interests and its territorial integrity and to uphold the Constitution,’ said MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu, in a statement released after Sibanda’s announcement.

“We appreciate the fact that our Defence Forces are disciplined and we trust that the other law enforcement agencies such as the Zimbabwe Republic Police will continue to effectively and competently discharge their constitutional mandate of maintaining law and order in our beloved motherland.

“More particularly, we call upon the police force to be professional at all times and not to resort to intimidation, bribe — taking and all other forms of malfeasance. Zimbabweans are a peace — loving people who shouldn’t be unnecessarily subjected to unjustified harassment by members of the law enforcement agencies,” added Gutu.

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