Solders in uniform went on a rampage in the streets of Harare beating up innocent civilians, looting and damaging property in frustration over failure to withdraw cash from banks
Zimbabwe’s army commander apologises for soldiers’ behavior
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November 27 will forever be ingrained in the minds of ordinary Zimbabweans. Solders in uniform went on a rampage in the streets of Harare beating up innocent civilians, looting and damaging property in frustration over failure to withdraw cash from banks. Nobody anticipated that kind of riotous behavior from the militia, given the loyalty the army has bestowed to 84- year-old Robert Mugabe since 1980 when the country gained political independence from British colonial rule. On December 1, a group of solders again ran amok in the capital’s streets. Government attempted to downplay the gravity of the incidents by dismissing them as minor cases of failing discipline within the army ranks.
But after soldiers believed to hold the key to Mugabe’s continuous stranglehold on power protested over some of the symptoms of a failed economy, for the first time the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) Commander Lieutenant-General Valerio Sibanda Tuesday speaking at the army’s charity event apologized to Zimbabweans for the hurt and destruction caused by the rogue soldiers.
“Some of you or your relatives and friends might have been affected by the behavior of some my men and women who went on a rampage and destroyed property and beat up people in the streets some two weeks ago.”
“Please pass on the message to others who are not here that this is not the way we operate as ZNA. My sincere apologies once again.”
Sibanda, however acknowledged the solders’ behavior is an ugly moment in Zimbabwe’s history.
“In any family, there are always one or two rebels. I feel that was one of the ugliest moments in the history of Zimbabwe and we are taking corrective action.”
Despite the army chief’s assurance and apology, there are however reports in some parts of Zimbabwe that solders are running riot venting their frustration on innocent members of the public.
In Zimbabwe’s third largest city, Gweru there are reports that solders Friday charged on the public in the evening looting money from people at the long distance bus terminus.
“Solders beat up people on Friday at the bus terminus. If one had large amounts of money above the stipulated Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) withdrawal limit of 500 million Zimbabwean dollars, they would question where they got it, given the cash shortages,” said a source who spoke on condition of anonymity.
There are also media reports that soldiers beat up people and illegal foreign currency dealers in the small town of Gutu in Masvingo province looting their cash.
“They started beating everyone at around five in the evening up into late in the night after they were riled by their bankruptcy. They however did not break into shops. Several people, including innocent civilians and illegal forex dealers lost substantial amounts of cash and sustained serious injuries,” The Harare tribune quoted a source as saying.
There are fears among the general public that if armed personnel continue with this rogue behavior, there might be serious casualties to both human life and property. Others however believe that the instability in the army is a sign that the center can no longer hold as solders are revolting against a crumpling economy that is affecting everyone.