ZIMBABWE has effectively moved from a police, to a military State, where members of the army are now being used to maintain order while police have been reduced to spectators, MDC leader Nelson Chamisa has said.
In an exclusive interview with NewsDay on Friday, Chamisa said while a police State under President Robert Mugabe was bad enough; things had become worse because the military has taken over.
“We have a problem; it’s bad enough to have a police State and when ED [President Emmerson Mnangagwa] came before elections after the November thing, he removed roadblocks, yet it was a decoy, he has even moved the country from a police State to a militarised State. We love our soldiers, we honour our soldiers; they are patriotic; but, honestly, why are politicians abusing our soldiers to draw them into issues that are not supposed to be theirs?” he asked.
Chamisa, who snubbed Mnangagwa’s meeting to come up with a roadmap for dialogue at State House last week, said the army was being used to further Zanu PF’s stranglehold on power.
His statements followed reports that elements of the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) had taken over policing duties from the police who, since the coup last year, have been treated with suspicion because of their perceived loyalty to Mugabe.
Until last Thursday, armed soldiers had become a common and permanent feature at major roadblocks mounted 24 hours a day on highways, while at some police stations, members of the military had pitched tents where they were now sleeping.
Sources in the police told NewsDay that while the soldiers appeared to be working under instruction of the police, it was the army that was effectively in charge of operations.
“We are as scared of the soldiers as the civilians are. The police is not trusted. As we go out on patrols and roadblocks, we take instructions from the soldiers, this is how the system works because we are viewed as anti the current establishment,” a highly-placed police source said.
The army has since, through Major-General Douglas Nyikayaramba, conceded that they had taken charge after protesters overran police stations.
“They (protesters) overran police stations, burnt police and public transport vehicles and also killed citizens, including a police officer. They broke into police armouries, stealing weapons and ammunition, which they used to kill people.
“Had the military not come in support of the Zimbabwe Republic Police, one wonders whether the whole country would not have been looted that day. The ZDF (Zimbabwe Defence Forces) however, regrets the loss of life which followed the unnecessary disturbances,” Nyikayaramba said, justifying military intervention.
But MDC spokesperson Jacob Mafume dismissed Nyikayaramba, saying the deployment of soldiers was illegal.
“They are deploying the military not to assist the police, but to prop up Zanu PF, we have become a West African-style military dictatorship, if you remember the military dictatorships of West Africa, of the 1980s and 1990s where the army said that they have to intervene in all sphere’s of civilian life, command agriculture, command justice, command policing, command housing and everything else has to be done through a military dictatorship. It is a model that failed in West Africa and it is a model that will fail in Zimbabwe,” he said.
Mafume said, in line with the Constitution, the army should only be deployed during an emergency or where police were unable to discharge their duties, not on a daily basis.
“The deployment of soldiers should be a process to assist the police, there should be an emergency or there should be a state were the police are now overwhelmed and cannot carry out their normal duties, it is not every day that soldiers are deployed, that is illegal,” he said.
Police spokesperson Commissioner Charity Charamba requested questions in writing and had not responded after getting questions on Tuesday last week.