Two soldiers were killed and a third seriously injured during clashes with artisanal miners in Bindura, the army and police confirmed.
The incident which occurred at around 1AM on Tuesday, was allegedly a fight over prostitutes, according to locals.
The fight is believed to have started in a bar and spilled outside, where the panners armed with machetes, knives and empty beer bottles attacked four soldiers.
On Tuesday, police and soldiers in civilian clothes rounded up dozens of prostitutes from the Chipadze and Chiwaridzo neighbourhoods and took them to the main police station in Bindura.
The soldiers were deployed in Bindura to take part in Independence Day parade rehearsals when they, the army said, were involved in an “altercation” with a group of gold panners.
Lieutenant Colonel Alphios Makotore, the director of public relations in the Zimbabwe National Army, said four soldiers were involved in the incident in Chipadze suburb.
Inspector Milton Mudembe of Mashonaland Central police said an investigation was underway.
Zimbabwe celebrates 39 years of independence from white colonial rule on April 18, and the military will take part in displays at a local football stadium.
Lawyers and women’s groups on Tuesday expressed concern over the mass arrest of women suspected to be prostitutes.
The Young Women Institute, in a statement, said it had credible reports that “soldiers… have taken the law into their own hands and have been carrying out unwarranted attacks on women suspected to be sex workers and men suspected to be artisanal miners.”
“We condemn such barbaric violence on the innocent women being harassed. We call for an immediate end to the harassment of civilians, and the abuse of office by the soldiers. They must let the police do their job and allow for the law to take its course,” the Institute said.