A recent army crackdown on civilians has brought problems for the country’s servicemen whose superiors have banned them from putting on camouflage on their way home to avoid revenge attacks by civilians angered by brutalities visited upon them recently.
This was revealed in a memo circulated to all members by Zimbabwe National Army commander Lieutenant General Edzai Chimonyo.
The ban, according to the memo, was also influenced by reports that some criminals with nothing to do with the defence forces were now committing various offences while impersonating members of the military.
“It has been noted with concern that ZNA uniform has been abused in offences being committed such as robbery, gold panning, fraud, theft and extortions among others. Some members have also been attacked by hostile civilians whilst in uniforms,” read the memo, dated February 6.
“Measures were then taken to ensure imposters abusing the uniforms will be easily identified and also ensure safety of members outside cantonment areas.
“Commander ZNA has directed that with immediate effect no military uniform will be worn outside cantonment areas.
“This applies to members commuting to and from places of work, intra and intercity commuting.
“Take note that after working hours, members are to put on civilian clothes and leave their uniforms in cantonment areas.”
The country’s military recently came under spotlight for all the wrong reasons following a brutal operation waged in urban residential areas in Harare, Bulawayo and some parts of the country in response to violent anti-government protests which coincided with a job stay away called by labour groups to register discontent over rising cost of living in the country.
At least 12 civilians were gunned down by soldiers during the protests while over 70 were also treated for gunshot wounds.
Claims of torture, rape and other heinous acts have been reported against the army, eliciting world condemnation over the heavy handed handling of public disturbances by the Emmerson Mnangagwa led administration.
Government has promised to investigate the offences but is yet to make a single arrest against any offending member of the army.
However, the ban in the wearing of uniform would likely come as a disappointment for many members who have used the distinctive clothing to enjoy free transport to work when spotted flagging for lifts by government vehicles, ZUPCO buses or private motorists with sympathy for the military.
Zimbabwe’s army, just like the rest of the civil service, is paid in the much resented RTGS electronic method while commuter transport operators demand cash from passengers.