By Anna Chibamu
DEPUTY Defense Minister Victor Matemadanda wants government to arrest anyone who claims the army was responsible for rape and abuses during the violent protests that rocked the country in January.
The protests were organised by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and left a trail of destruction as well as a reported 17 deaths at the hands of the army. Rights groups have also reported gross human rights abuses including the rape of women and girls but Matemadanda who doubles up as secretary general of the Zimbabwe Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA), wants this swept under the carpet.
“Let me warn those running around talking about rape by our members of the armed forces that they will be prosecuted.
“If anyone does that, please go ahead and arrest that person. These are the people who have caused the government to get sanctioned by the West because of their gross lies,” said Matemadanda.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa was in August last year forced to set up a commission of inquiry headed by former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe to look into another bout of killings by the army following a demonstration by suspected opposition activists who were demanding the release of presidential election results.
While the country’s military top brass claimed a “third force’ could have been behind the use of live ammunition. Motlanthe blamed the army for the use of disproportionate force against unarmed protestors.
Matemadanda, was ironically visiting the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces meeting victims of the 1980s genocide commonly referred to as ‘Gukurahundi’ in which some 20 000 civilians were reportedly killed by a crack army unit known as the 5th Brigade trained by North Koreans.
Former President Robert Mugabe refused to apologised for the massacres only going as far as referring to the episode as a “moment of madness.”
Matemadanda, recently claimed Mugabe was having hallucinations because of the genocide.
More than a 1000 people including minors were arrested in the military assisted crackdown that followed the January protests triggered by a 150% increase in the price of fuel announced by Mnangagwa. Government again claimed rogue elements within the army, police and civil society had stole firearms from cantonment areas that were then used to kill protestors and civilians.
The European Union and the US have renewed sanctions on Zimbabwe arguing little has changed under Mnangagwa in terms of the country’s human rights record.
The sanctions were initially targeted at Mugabe and his administration.