Protests: Mwonzora blasts govt inertia in dealing with rogue soldiers

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By Robert Tapfumaneyi

TOP MDC politician Douglas Mwonzora has castigated government’s brutal clampdown on offending citizens during recent public disturbances while taking a soft approach when dealing with rogue soldiers linked to murder, rape and other heinous crimes against civilians.

Mwonzora, who is MDC secretary general, was speaking during a panel discussion at SAPES Trust Thursday.

The discussion, under the topic, “Reflection on recent national unrest and government response”, was organised by the Information for Development Trust (IDT), a local NGO formed to track public sector corruption and related misdemeanours.

Ugly protests rocked Harare, Bulawayo and parts of the country between 14 and 16 January this year when citizens angrily protested a government decision to hike prices of fuel by more than half.

Looting, vandalism, among other crimes, were experienced but government responded with brute force through the military, some of whose members have been fingered in rape and other forms of crimes.

Over 1 000 civilians were arrested and dragged to the courts in different parts of the country over their alleged role in the skirmishes.

Government has pledged to investigate criminal acts linked to some members of the military with almost three weeks gone without a single reported arrest.

Mwonzora questioned the apparent use of a “special justice” system when dealing with rogue military men, but “fast track” prosecutions on protesters.

“We have not heard a single case where a rogue soldier was arrested, we have not heard a single case where a rogue military man has been court martialed. Why is that the case? Mwonzora said.

“Where were these soldiers coming from, military trucks, those trucks have number plates, how many days does it take to identify them. So this government is not a sincere government.

“So if you say you cannot have ‘microwave justice’ for the soldiers but you can have microwave justice for the civilians, then that’s unfair and unconstitutional.”

Said Mwonzora, “You have to treat all Zimbabweans equal. Why special justice for the army offenders, why special justice for the state offenders? Why special justice for those people who abuse civilians?”

He added, “Our law says you arrest people on reasonable suspicion and also when there is an evidence crime, where there is a crime alleged, the police must investigate that crime.

“Unfortunately in relation to these rapes, no investigation by the state is taking place and why is that so?

“When it comes to enforcing discipline within Zanu PF and the State, this government, when it comes to dealing with an unarmed civilian it is a cheetah, reactions are different.

“This is a government that speaks in forked tongues, ‘heads will roll’ is a typical sweet nothing from our government.”

But co-panelist, Information Ministry secretary Nick Mangwana said soldiers identified as having committed crimes against civilians will be arrested and prosecuted once the investigations were complete.

“Every military institution in the world has the military police that deals with indiscipline in the army and criminal activities in the army, crimes that were committed by the military,” Mangwana said.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has promised to investigate claims of abuse against civilians by the country’s security forces as his administration comes under international spotlight for crimes against humanity.