CHIREDZI residents are now living in fear of army brutality as soldiers patrolling the streets late at night are beating up people and taking some of them to unknown destinations.
The soldiers were deployed during the 21-day nationwide lockdown to help the police to enforce the presidential decree.
This was revealed by Jonathan Mupamombe, the chairperson of Chiredzi Residents and Ratepayers Association, in an interview with the NewsDay Weekender.
According to Mupamombe, the soldiers are targeting mostly tuck-shop owners who operate during the late hours and vegetable vendors going to markets early in the morning.
“Soldiers are beating up people at night. We have one tuck-shop owner whose whereabouts are not yet known after she was taken by soldiers around 10pm yesterday. Some vegetable vendors are still nursing injuries after they were severely beaten in the early hours of the day,” he said.
The security agents have allegedly upped human rights abuse since the start of the lockdown.
Recently, a journalist, who works for a provincial paper, was picked up by police in town at the instigation of a Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) district boss soon after visiting Chiredzi General Hospital.
There was a suspected COVID-19 death at Chiredzi District Hospital and police detained the TellZim journalist, who was coming from the hospital to verify the case after nurses at the hospital had reportedly refused to handle the body because they did not have protective clothing.
Police officer commanding Masvingo, Assistant Commissioner Taoneyi Nyazema urged citizens to report all cases of abuse.
This was after reports of police brutality against alleged lockdown violators.
Zimbabwe National Army Masvingo provincial spokesperson Sergeant Shelon Mudhara said: “I cannot give you an accurate comment right now because I have to investigate the matter. Maybe people were just lying about the whole thing. I will come back to you.”
At Nyika in Bikita, police and soldiers besieged the growth point, forcing several shops to close.
The police also allegedly destroyed unmanned vending stalls without notice, in the process destroying goods worth thousands of dollars.
Some businessmen accused the police of corruptly allowing some of the shops to operate.
“We heard the President saying groceries shops must be open from 9am to 1pm, but the police closed all our shops and corruptly left a handful of shops. We do not know which criteria they used,” one businessman said.
“Butcheries were forced to close and some had just slaughtered beasts for sale and the meat is now rotting. They left shops that include N Richards, Tsongoya, Chikwavire and other businesses owned by whites.”
He added: “The police did not give vendors warnings. They just came and destroyed their vending stalls while they were at home observing the lockdown.”