18 January 2019

Zimbabwe: Soldiers in Boko Haram-Style Invasions

At a private hospital in Harare on Wednesday, a mother lay between her two children, all writhing in pain from injuries sustained when masked soldiers attacked their home Boko Haram-style.

After firing several gunshots at her doorstep in the wee hours of Wednesday, armed soldiers wielding AK47 rifles and wearing balaclavas, forced their way into her home.

"I heard gunshots early in the morning and, soon afterwards, soldiers broke into the house," she said as she lay between her 16-year-old son and 19-year-old daughter in a hospital bed. "One of the soldiers, who was holding a baton, immediately shouted, 'I am the son of the devil' and charged at me. His colleagues were carrying logs. They went for my two children," she said, gesturing towards one of the children. She sustained a fractured wrist when the soldiers hit her.

"My children were badly beaten. My children are not into politics, so I am shocked that they were beaten in such a manner," she said in anger. The son wrote Zimsec O' levels and is waiting for results, while the daughter did her A' levels last year.

One of the soldiers, she said, threatened to return and rape her.

"The devil's son', she said, appeared to take particular delight in assaulting her son with barbed wire, while threatening to burn the house.

"They threatened to come back and rape all the women in the area if they did not disclose where their husbands were hiding. They never explained why they were beating people. They only said Zanu PF would not tolerate nonsense," she said.

In another ward, a police officer with an AK47 rifle stood by the bed as the doctor attended to one of the patients.

The officer's presence prevented the doctor from speaking to the Zimbabwe Independent.

Another victim, a 21-year-old college student from Harare's Dzivaresekwa Phase 3 suburb, who was badly beaten up on Monday when the protests broke out, said: "I was beaten up on Monday and I sustained a deep cut on my cheek and another on my back. They also took my money and phone. I could only find help today (Wednesday)," he said.

A Warren Park D man, who had accompanied his two sons to the same hospital, said he hid in the bathroom, while his children were being assaulted by plain clothed men. He had to listen to heart-rending screams of his sons, as the several men were striking them with wire sjamboks. The men, he said, disembarked from an unmarked Ford Ranger truck and pounced on his two sons as they sat on the veranda, chatting the evening away. "I came here with my two sons, who were badly beaten up on their backs and one has broken bones.

They were just seated on the veranda when they pounced on them. It was a group of men in two Ford Ranger trucks with no number plates. They had no proper identification, but my son saw army belts," he said.

They sought help at the nearest police station, but were told to leave without assistance.

"We went to the police and they chased us away like dogs. They said the army and police were deployed in our area and we could not report the cases now and we would only be able to do so once the chaos was over. I came here today, but I don't have the capacity to pay the hospital bills. At the same time, I cannot sit at home and watch my sons in pain," he said.

A 29-year-old security guard, who was assaulted while on duty on Tuesday night, said he suffered an arm fracture when soldiers hit him despite wearing his service uniform.

"I was beaten up by soldiers on Monday night in Budiriro One. I have one broken bone on my hand so I am here to find out the extent of the injury since I was referred here from Budiriro. I am a guard at a shop so they pounced on me. I couldn't come here on Tuesday because the situation was tense," he said.

The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) said 68 people had been shot and 172 injured during the protests. The doctors recorded 10 fatalities and raised the red flag over understated government figures of fatalities.

"Injuries range from extensive deep wounds from secondary gunshot wounds," a statement issued by the ZADHR reads.

"Most victims died of blunt trauma from gunshot wounds," the doctors said.

The majority of the cases were recorded in Harare, Bulawayo, Chitungwiza, Karoi and Kadoma.

As the protests continued, government rushed to black out the internet.

Government said 600 people were arrested in connection with the violence, a figure which human rights groups say is highly conservative.

Civil rights leader and cleric Evan Mawarire was among those arrested.

Protests broke out a day after President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced that prices of fuel had increased by 150%, triggering a jump in public transport fares and raising fears of further price increases.

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