FRESH details on circumstances surrounding the weekend shooting incident that claimed the life of a soldier in Chivhu, about 140km south of Harare along the Harare-Masvingo Highway, have emerged.
On Saturday, two men managed to disarm two soldiers at a small makeshift police base in central Chivhu, opening fire and killing Lance Corporal Lorance Mupanganyama and injuring Corporal Peter Zvirevo.
The two men, according to the police, were later gunned down in a shoot-out with the police and the Zimbabwe National Army officers at Waterbury Farm, in Gutu, where they were reportedly hiding after walking for about 15km from Chivhu town along the Chivhu-Gutu Highway.
In a statement, police claimed the two suspects in the Saturday shooting incident had attempted to rob a fastfood outlet in the town.
But people who witnessed the incident said there were more questions than answers in the whole drama, which has left the Chivhu community in fear.
One witness said the two approached the police base where the now-deceased Mupanganyama and injured Zvirevo were resting in the company of four female police officers.
One of them signalled to Mupanganyama to come out, which he did and they had a conversation which ended prematurely.
“We heard the now-deceased saying ‘You are not my boss, I will not take instructions from you’ before going back into the police base,” the witness said.
“The two suspects followed, shouting that ‘today, you will know that I am your boss’. This is when the whole drama started. There was an exchange of gunfire and within a short period, the two came out of the police base.
“He shouted, ‘hondo yatanga (the war has just begun’, brandishing his gun in the air after shooting.”
The witness said she was concerned that the reason the soldier was killed may never be revealed since the gunmen were dead.
Another source said: “The statement by the deceased soldier that he did not report to the gunman suggests the two men, who are now dead, could be members of the army. The two were only interested in the soldiers. They attacked the soldiers and left the four female police officers who were in the base.
“The base is too small, that some people hid is not true. If they wanted to kill the police officers, they could have killed all of them.
“Furthermore, their faces were not covered and if they were real criminals, they could have killed everyone there, including the female police officers for fear of being able to be physically identified. But the gunmen never even attempted to fire at any one of the people who were at the place, but instead, ordered them to disperse.”
A senior police detective based in Chivhu, who also spoke to NewsDay on condition of anonymity, supported the witness’ narrative.
“It is highly likely that the reason the soldiers were killed has nothing to do with their patrol duties of that day considering that the four female police officers in the base, as small as it is, escaped unharmed,” he said.
“The gunmen fired at least 12 times, so if they were randomly discharging the firearm, the police officers could also have been shot and injured or even killed, but they were not, which means their shots were targeted at the victims,” he added.
Another witness said Mupanganyama and the assailant who signalled him to come out of the police base did not have a prolonged altercation before the gunfire.
“I saw a soldier speaking with a man outside the police base shortly before I heard gunshots,” the witness, who only identified himself as Richard, said.
“I could not tell whether it was an argument or not because their conversation could hardly be heard by people nearby.
“But from the way they were speaking, one could assume that the two had a previous relationship before that encounter.”
After killing the gunmen on Sunday afternoon, the security officers paraded the bodies of the deceased gunmen on the streets of Chivhu before taking them to Chivhu General Hospital.
Curiously, two leaked police memos have different serial numbers of the guns seized during the shooting incident.
One of the memos recorded assault rifles with serial numbers ZA52410 and ZA49103 as having gone missing after the police base shooting, while another has serial numbers ZA48889 and ZA54490 as that of assault rifles recovered.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said investigations were still ongoing.
“We have teams on the ground, investigations are still ongoing,” he said, adding that he was not aware of the memos with difference serial numbers.