SW Radio Africa (London)

16 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Armed Soldiers Terrorise Villagers in the Midlands

Armed soldiers who were deployed to various parts of the Midlands province in December, to distribute food under a ZANU PF scheme, have been accused of terrorizing villagers in the areas where they are camping.

Reports vary from assaults to threats, robbery, unofficial curfews and late-night home visits by uniformed soldiers with AK 47 rifles.

SW Radio Africa correspondent Lionel Saungweme spoke to trusted sources who said the soldiers are restricting people's movements in many areas and using logs to assault those without a good reason for being outside at night.

In one incident, a security guard named Tavonga Ndlela was hospitalized for three days following an attack by soldiers on Christmas Eve. Ndlela was guarding three premises at Musume when the soldiers arrived in a taxi that they refused to pay for. They then assaulted Ndlela with a log saying: "Urikufambirei husiku", meaning why are you walking at night.

Eight other people at the location were assaulted by the soldiers, who accused them of having no identification cards at night.

In another incident, the MDC-T Secretary for Defence in the Midlands South, Trynos Shava, was attacked by soldiers last week after being accused of breaking a curfew at night. Shava had gone to Mataga to visit his family but ended up hiding in a tree. He later fled to the mountains nearby.

Saungweme said that armed soldiers in Gokwe North, near Nembudziyah, have been giving out bags of rice from China since December. But the rice comes with the familiar threat to "vote for ZANU PF if you take this food or else".

According to Saungweme, the most recent distribution of the rice took place last Thursday at a place called Nyatso. Armed soldiers accompanied by ZANU PF councilors threatened recipients, saying: "Kana madya chikafu chedu moziva pekuvota," and "Voterai ZANU PF kuti chikafu chirambe chichiuya".

This means "know who to vote for if you eat our food" and "vote for ZANU PF if you want to keep receiving food".

Last week the rice from China was also distributed at Grain Marketing Board (GMB) depots at Mutora, Chinyenyetu, Mushamba and paChoda. Villagers said threats were made by ZANU PF councilors who were present at each location.

Saungweme said the situation in the Midlands has intensified since December last year, as more soldiers were recruited to distribute the maize under Robert Mugabe's presidential inputs scheme.

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