By Anna Chibamu
ZIMBABWEAN NGOs say 12 people have died as a result of a police, army crackdown on anti-government protesters early this week, contradicting official claims only three people who include a police officer had died.
In a statement Friday, the groups, speaking under the banner of the Zimbabwe Human Rights (NGO) Forum, accused Zanu PF activists of involvement in the brutal attacks which they said also caught up with victims of below 10.
“The use of force and extra-judicial killings which have left 12 people dead and 78 others wounded in gunshots is greatly disturbing,” said the NGO grouping while condemning the “random and indiscriminate use of live ammunition” on civilians.
“Police have reportedly thrown teargas in homes and market places where protests were not taking place and this continued use of lethal force is worrisome considering that the nation has not yet recovered from August 1 shootings.”
Wild skirmishes rocked parts of the country beginning this week following three days of a job stay away called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, NGOs and like-minded individuals.
Mobs barricaded roads and burnt tyres while some shops were looted as angry locals vented their anger at a government decision to hike fuel prices by more than double.
Security forces responded with brute force and dragnet arrests with the independent Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights reporting Thursday it had treated 68 for gunshot wounds since Monday.
In its Friday statement, the NGO Forum however said armed security personnel were breaking into private homes, “indiscriminately torturing occupants including children as young as nine years old”.
“Police are working in common purpose with the army and Zanu PF youth militia in perpetrating these violations,” said the group.
Former Zanu PF youth leader Godwin Gomwe and other party activists were among those arrested while allegedly terrorising citizens in Harare.
Acting President Constantino Chiwenga was later said to have ordered their release by police.
The victimisation of citizens was said to be rampant in Budiriro, Mabvuku, Glen Norah, Highfields, Kuwadzana, Warren Park and Hatcliffe suburbs in Harare while Chitungwiza and Chinhoyi also experienced the disturbances.
The forum alleges that victims of state brutality have been denied access to lawyers, medical treatment and bail.
They were severely beaten by the soldiers before being arrested.
State Security Minister Owen Ncube has said that the violent protests amounted to treason.