Aid agencies demand removal of soldiers in Cyclone Idai hit areas

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By Staff Reporter

HUMANITARIAN aid organisations are demanding the removal of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) officers, in tropical Cyclone Idai affected areas, amid reports of an increase in sexual-related offences.

A recent report by the United Nations Office for Coordination and Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) raises concerns over the continued presence of armed soldiers, especially in the districts of Chimanimani, Chipinge and Buhera.   The three districts, including parts of Gutu, Bikita and Chikomba were seriously affected when the tropical storm hit Zimbabwe in March this year killing over 400 people and displacing over 50 000 as well as damage to infrastructure.

According to the report, villagers have complained of an increase in sexual abuse cases on girls and women by soldiers and aid workers.

“High-level interventions are needed as to the continued presence of the armed forces (ZDF). Though reduced, at school facilities in Chimanimani there are reports of involvement in humanitarian response,” OCHA noted.

The ZDF comprises of the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) and the Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ).

According to the organisation, 131 complaints of sexual-related offences have been recorded in Chipinge and Chimanimani.

“A total of 70 complaints – 32 female and 17 male in Chimanimani and 13 male and 8 female in Chipinge– on GBV (Gender-Based Violence) and sexual exploitation and abuse were received through the safe spaces – bringing the total of received complaints since beginning of response to 131,” the report says.

Zimbabwe security forces still enjoy impunity months after a countrywide crackdown last January, in the aftermath of deadly protests that led to the death of 18 people. Military officers fingered in the death of six protestors in August last year have also not been prosecuted despite a recommendation from a Commission of Inquiry led by former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe.