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‘Army in renewed terror campaign’

CONSTITUTIONAL Parliamentary Committee co-chairman Douglas Mwonzora has accused the military and other state security agents of terrorising villagers during the outreach programme of the constitution-making process, saying a climate of fear was  enveloping  outlying districts of the country.

Mwonzora said this week as a result of the fear and intimidation meetings would have to be held again in at least 1 100 centres throughout the country to try to rescue people’s views which were suppressed by Zanu PF militants who were aided and abetted by the army and other security structures.

 

This comes a week after Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai also complained  about activities of the army during the flawed and violence-ridden constitution-making process. The premier said the military and state agents’ involvement in the exercise should be investigated. In previous elections, Tsvangirai blamed the army for violence and intimidation and even rigging of polls. During the 2008 presidential election run-off, Tsvangirai pulled out of the race, citing violence and brutality by the army and other security services.

“We note with concern the militarisation of the process, interfering with a purely civilian process. Reports from all over the country show the heavy involvement of the military in the process,” he said.

“In rural areas, ordinary people were under siege from similar cases of military meddling. The military and state agents’ involvement must be investigated and the principals must meet immediately to map the way forward.”

Mwonzora told the Zimbabwe Independent that there was allegedly heavy involvement of the military and state security agents before, during and after outreach meetings throughout the country.

He said the soldiers, some in civilian clothing and others in uniform, attended the consultations and addressed people prior to the outreach meetings, telling them what to say and threatening those that might want to speak against Zanu PF positions.

“They would be dropped at centres before the arrival of the Copac team, they would then address the gathering on what to say and the people that must speak and not speak. They would then advise them on the specific measures that would be taken against those that do not obey,” Mwonzora said.

Mwonzora said the areas to be redone also include those that were affected by “politically motivated violence, fear, intimidation, busing in of participants, manhandling of Copac members, verbal threats, racial intolerance, assaults, whistling and booing of participants presenting different views, sloganeering and singing revolutionary songs”.

Director of Defence Forces Public Relations department Everson Magwiza denied the army was beating up people and disrupting meetings, saying there was no operation in which soldiers were deployed during outreach meetings. “I am not aware that we have any involvement. What I know is that like everybody else, members of the army are free to participate in the constitution-making process,” he said.

However, Mwonzora insisted that he had electronic evidence from the outreach teams that show the involvement of the military and state security agents, particularly in rural areas, before, during and after the meetings.

“Allegations of involvement of military people and CIO operatives were brought to the committee by some outreach teams in Matabeleland South, Mashonaland West, Manicaland, Mashonaland Central, Masvingo and Harare,” he said.

“We can confirm that the CIO was present at all meetings. In Manicaland, there is evidence on camera and electronic evidence of members of the CIO masquerading as villagers. Some of them were identified in Nyanga where they were known and were removed from the meetings.”

He singled out Brigadier-General Douglas Nyikayaramba, saying he was involved in deploying soldiers in Manicaland.

“We received reports in Manicaland of military officers from 3 Brigade commanded by Brigadier-General Douglas Nyikayaramba being bused to areas around Mutare, Chipinge and Nyanga,” he said, adding that “they even picketed there. Definitely there was a heavy presence of the military. I can confirm that there was rogue behaviour by the military that forced three meetings to be abandoned in Nyanga alone.”

However, the other co-chairperson Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana said they had 4 600 reports to go through and could not confirm the allegations because he had not gone through them yet.

Mwonzora said: “We also received allegations of members of the army getting into the programme. I can give you an example of Nyanga South where members of the military from the local battalion battle school went and caused mayhem at Nyatondo outreach centre, as a result the outreach meetings were cancelled twice,” he said.

“There were also military officers present in Dzivaresekwa and officers from Cranborne barracks at the meetings in Mbare at Mai Musodzi Hall and Hatfield. They were spread across the districts and in some instances, they were identified by villagers. The involvement of the military is well documented.”

Copac reports of aborted meetings in Manicaland, which the Independent has copies of, read: “… at Nyatondo Primary School in Nyanga South, bused participants refused to leave the venue. The majority of the participants were soldiers and uniformed soldiers also attended the meeting. The road was blocked so that Copac members could not leave the place.”

While at St Peter’s Tokoyo primary school in Makoni South, the report said Copac team members were chased away by state security agents.
“After bussed in participants began leaving the venue, Copac team members from Zanu PF also left the meeting. The remaining team members decided to proceed with the meeting but were chased away by CIO an hour and a half later,” read the report.

In another incident at Nemaire Primary School in Headlands, MDC supporters were threatened into not attending meetings and those who had threatened them “were armed” when they attended the meeting.

“Those who had threatened participants then attended the meeting and were armed and advised participants that they will deal with those putting across MDC positions,” read the report.

Mwonzora said he raised the issue with the military, who told him that the soldiers could have been at the meetings in their personal capacities to contribute like any other citizen to the constitution-making process.

He said they also told him that the soldiers were not on duty, while some might have been retired army officers visiting their rural homes.
Mwonzora said it seemed that the whole operation by the soldiers was well organised and coordinated.

“They are well-organised; these officers were deployed at each and every station. They were transported there and they were transported from there,” he said.

In Harare, whose outreach programme was suspended because of violence, the co-chairperson said they would re-do 42 centres, which will be broken down into smaller groups.

 

Faith Zaba

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