A GROUP of Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) officers briefly cordoned and shut down Gweru Police Station in protest over the alleged shooting and arrest of a colleague on Saturday, NewsDay has learnt.
The incident put to the test the strained relations between the police and military.
ZNA spokesperson, Colonel Alphios Makotore, confirmed the incident yesterday, but declined to give further details, saying the matter was now before the courts.
“I can’t say much about the incident at the moment because the matter is now headed for the courts. The suspects are expected to appear in court tomorrow (today) and, therefore, it would be subjudice to discuss it in the media,” Makotore said.
But sources said the scuffle started when two police detectives attempted to arrest a non-uniformed soldier for allegedly smoking dagga at the bus terminus. When the soldier resisted arrest and fled to a nearby army bus, one of the detectives opened fire and shot him on the leg.
“All hell broke loose and the next thing we witnessed was a bus full of soldiers driving to Gweru Central Police Station, where they stormed the station demanding the detention of the police officers involved in the scuffle,” a police source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said. The soldiers allegedly called for reinforcement, forcing the police station to briefly shut down before their bosses intervened.
“The soldiers were demanding that the police officers involved be disarmed and detained,” the source said. The injured soldier was later whisked away by his colleagues, as police and army bosses convened an urgent meeting and resolved to have the police officers detained and taken to court.
National police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said she had not yet been briefed over the incident, and referred all questions to the provincial police commander.
Relations between the army and the police have not been rosy since November last year when the military disarmed police and the Central Intelligence Organisation during Operation Restore Legacy, taking over control of all strategic police units ousting former President Robert Mugabe to resign.
During the operation, which ushered in a new government led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, soldiers took over control of all strategic police units to destabilise the ZRP which then was accused of being sympathetic to Zanu PF’s deposed G40 faction.
Since then, dozens of top police and CIO officers have been purged from government, amid reports of increasing tension among the State’s security apparatus.
Similar clashes occurred in August last year when soldiers in Harare went on the rampage beating up police officers they came across, forcing Mugabe to call an emergency security sector meeting to avoid the situation degenerating into anarchy.