Fresh crackdown fears as army vows ‘snap search for uniforms’

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By Kingston Ndabatei

IN a move that could raise fears of a fresh crackdown, the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) has said it will flush out “rogue members of society” using military regalia and other material that resembles army gear.

In a statement Wednesday, the ZNA urged members of the public to surrender such material either to the police or military camp close to them.

“The Zimbabwe National Army is advising members of the public that it will conduct snap searches for ZNA uniforms and other resembling clothing items in residential areas starting on this weekend,” the statement said.

In a chilling warning the army warned of possible “inconveniences” for those found with military regalia or clothing items resembling it.

“This has been necessitated by the sharp rise in cases of theft, robbery, etc, executed using military regalia mostly by rogue elements of the society.

“Members of the public are urged to voluntarily surrender these clothing items to the search teams before the searches are conducted or surrender them to the nearest police station or army camp.

“Please be warned and comply accordingly to avoid any inconveniences that might be caused by the exercise.”

In January this year, the army claimed that rogue elements within its ranks, former members of the force as well as ordinary folk with access to military uniform and guns had been responsible for the deaths of protestors during skirmishes that followed a Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) organized national protest.

At least 17 people including a police officer are said to have been killed in the violent crackdown as the army was deployed to deal with violent disturbances that followed the ZCTU’s call for a shutdown following President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s announcement that fuel prices had gone up by 150%.

Again, six people were gunned to death while dozens were left with gapping gunshot wounds after the army was called in to quell another protest on August 1st last year. The protestors had been demanding the release of presidential election results.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, in its report following the January protests, accused the military of unnecessary use of brute force against citizens.