By Robert Tapfumaneyi
PLANS by the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) to search for military uniforms and related regalia in residential areas are both “draconian” and “uncalled for” opposition political parties have said.
Soldiers, the parties insisted, are trained “to use guns” and not to “investigate and apprehend criminals”.
The ZNA has called on members of the public to surrender army uniforms to the nearest police station or military camp before this weekend.
This comes after the security services blamed rogue elements that stole military uniforms for the killings and sexual abuse of civilians during a brutal crackdown against protestors last month.
However, in separate interviews with NewZimbabwe.com, opposition leaders said the task should have been left to Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP).
MDC-T deputy president Obert Gutu said; “Anything that smacks of militarisation of the law enforcement machinery certainly doesn’t augur well for Zimbabwe’s fledgling democracy.
Soldiers are exactly what they are – soldiers, who should be deployed to defend and uphold Zimbabwe’s territorial integrity and national security.
Policing should be left entirely in the hands of the Zimbabwe police service.”
He added; “Ordinarily, soldiers are trained to use guns rather than to investigate and apprehend criminals.
“Of course, we know that there’s the military police, but then routine policing duties should be the domain of the police force and not the ZNA.”
MDC national spokesperson Jacob Mafume said the notice by ZNA was illegal and unconstitutional.
“They have no warrant and they have no capacity; no powers under any law to be conducting any searches in residential areas,” he said.
“It is unheard of that any army can generally say everyone is wearing uniforms and therefore they do random searches.
“It is the increasing militarisation of the State that we are talking about. We are now in a de facto military state; de facto military junta which believes that they can enter and invade people’s homes.
The sanctity of a home, the sanctity of a residential area in Zimbabwe is being violated, the right to privacy, the right to certain rights under the constitution before one can be searched or the law can be exercised is under threat.”
Mafume added, “This is unheard of; we are not in a war zone.
“ … no rebels that have been wearing uniforms and I do believe that this move by the army is simply to again re-deploy soldiers, beat up residents and continue with what said they claimed had stopped.”
Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said it was wrong to deploy soldiers to deal with civilian activities.
“The police in this case should do the searches. We seem to be missing it as a country when we involve and entangle the military in politics and civilian affairs,” he said.
“This is what 37 years of (former president Robert) Mugabe and the military coup have birth to.”
Leader of Build Zimbabwe Alliance (BAZ) and losing 2018 losing presidential candidate Noah Manyika agreed that the task of searching for army uniforms should be left to the police.
“This is a law enforcement exercise, not a military operation,” he said.
“If they are looking for deserters, then it would be the military police going to specific addresses to find them.
“But to do a sweep looking for uniforms using the army is totally unacceptable.”