The Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) has restored peace and order in the country after it was invited to quell violent protests instigated by labour unions and opposition elements last month that led to the loss of lives and left a trail of destruction, a senior army official has said.
Addressing journalists yesterday, ZDF (Inspector-General) Major-General Douglas Nyikayaramba said they were ready to pull out soldiers deployed to assist the police in the maintenance of law and order subject to confirmation from the law enforcement agencies.
He said ZDF would, however, institute investigations into allegations of gross misconduct and human rights abuses levelled against its members and those found guilty would be dealt with decisively in terms of the law.
The Zimbabwe Congress Trade Unions (ZCTU), some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and opposition elements embarked on violent demonstrations ostensibly over fuel price increases, which turned into an orgy of looting and burning of police stations, vehicles and shops, among other vices.
“The ZDF wishes to inform members of the public that these disturbances have come to an end. Peace and security have returned to the country owing to close cooperation of the country’s security forces and the genuine support they received from members of the general public,” said Maj-Gen Nyikayaramba.
“Public support given to the Defence Forces is not to be taken for granted, hence the need to sincerely thank members of the public for the positive role they played in quelling the disturbances.”
He said they were ready to withdraw their soldiers once police indicate that their continued presence was no longer necessary.
Maj-Gen Nyikayaramba bemoaned the violence that characterised the demonstrations which he said began from the onset.
“Some sections of the media are conveniently ignoring the wanton looting of goods and destruction of properties that followed the barricading of roads to disrupt free movement and association. Protestors destroyed about 165 shops owned by ordinary members of the public,” said Maj-Gen Nyikayaramba.
He narrated several damages inflicted by the protestors.
“They broke into police armouries stealing weapons and ammunition. Had the military not come in support of the ZRP, one wonders whether the whole country would not have been looted that day.
“The ZDF, however, regrets the loss of life which followed the unnecessary disturbances. Our sympathies go to the bereaved families,” he said.
He said ZDF had instituted investigations into several allegations against their members that included rape, human rights abuse, assaults, extortion but he said no reports had been lodged with the police in respect on most of the complaints raised.
“As the ZDF, we do not condone indiscipline. If after investigations members are found to have committed the purported offences, they will be arrested and disciplined accordingly,” said Maj Gen Nyikayaramba.
He said ZDF had noted that some of the alleged offences were committed by civilians putting on military fatigue and deserters.
The ZDF, said Maj Gen Nyikayaramba was a disciplined service that should never terrorise citizens but protect them.
“On rape and assault allegations, it is an anathema, diabolic, uncouth for any member of our society to commit that act, it is not consistent with our culture, moreso for a member of the ZDF,” said Maj Gen Nyikayaramba.