The Herald (Harare)

8 September 2012

Zimbabwe: Touts Descend On Soldiers

RANK marshals yesterday severely assaulted two soldiers in uniform at the Charge Office bus terminus in Harare after they came to the rescue of commuters who were being harassed.

Zanu-PF chairman for Chadcombe-Msasa district Cde Itai Badze and kombi crews were recently assaulted by the same group known as "Mandimbandimba" on separate occasions.

Trouble started when a Msasa Park-bound kombi driver refused to pay US$3 to the bouncers.

They immediately blocked the exit point and ordered all passengers out of the vehicle.

A soldier from One Commando Barracks, who was in the vehicle, was caught in the crossfire.

One of the touts seized the soldier by the collar, while others dragged him by the hands.

They took off his green beret.

The touts demanded that he takes off his uniform and engage them in a fistfight.

They then took him to a food court across Angwa Street where nearly 20 touts head-butted, slapped, punched, spat on his face and threw him to the ground.

The soldier remained on the ground as the touts punched and kicked him for about five minutes.

Another soldier in uniform, a Warrant Officer Class 1, who tried to intervene was also assaulted.

"You cannot do anything to us. Just remove your uniforms so that we prove to you what we are saying.

"Muri two hamuna zvamunoita, tinotokudai muri 100 ndokuti mutikwanise. No one can stop us from collecting money here," shouted one of the touts.

The Warrant Officer later managed to grab the hand of the other officer, to help him off the ground before head-ing towards Harare Central Police Station.

After the skirmishes, the touts left in a kombi, a Toyota Altezza, two BMW X5s and two Mercedes Benz MLs.

A member of Chiremba Road Omnibus Operators Association Mr Jackson Mavhunga condemned the touts' behaviour.

"These guys think they have the country in their hands.

"How long is it going to take before responsible authorities listen to our concerns?

"How can soldiers be beaten up in public by these people and nothing happens?

"We are afraid of lodging complaints to anyone because they say they are protected by powerful people," said Mr Mavhunga.

Director of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces public relations Colonel Overson Mugwisi condemned the attack.

"We do not expect such behaviour from civilians. They have to treat uniformed forces with respect. We are going to conduct investigations such that we get the root of the problem," he said.

Police spokesperson Chief Inspector James Sabau said those beaten up should report to the nearest police station.

"People who are assaulted have to report to the nearest police station or police officer. I would be able to comment if the soldiers had lodged their complaints with the police."

Zanu-PF secretary for administration Cde Didymus Mutasa urged the party's provincial administration to investigate the case since some of the touts claimed to be Zanu-PF members.

"The party does not allow that kind of behaviour and we are calling for the Harare provincial council to act and stop that behaviour. Zanu-PF does not win friends in that way and the President has spoken on numerous occasions against violence.

"Youths should respect elderly people and you cannot say you belong to the party merely by wearing party regalia. It's only enemies of the party who behave like that. We are asking the provincial council to be more visible and supervise their youngsters and speak the truth about them.

"If they are really members of our party we request the province to speak since it is difficult to believe touts and youths are behaving like that," Cde Mutasa said.

Zanu-PF Harare provincial secretary for information and publicity Cde Claudious Mutero distanced the party from the touts.

"They are not members of the party and Harare Province does not run its office using money from the touts and not even a single cent ends in the party's coffers. As far as we are concerned nobody is sent from the party to abuse people.

"Fundraising is done after clearance from the province and we do not know those people. We do not accept a situation where people abuse Zanu-PF regalia and if one does so he/she must be arrested.

"We do not want people who put the party's name into disrepute and go against our code of conduct.

"We would really appreciate if we get the names of the criminals," Cde Mutero said.

Some of the rank marshalls have built mansions in leafy suburbs of Harare.

Harare has over 6 000 commuter omnibuses and operators are losing up to a combined US$20 000 a day.

Zanu-PF has condemned the group on numerous occasions, but no action has been taken against the touts.

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