AT least 10 soldiers were arrested last week on allegations of assaulting and demanding money from rank marshals and touts in Harare’s central business district (CBD).
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Soldiers and touts have been fighting running battles in the past few weeks after touts, known as mandimbandima, assaulted some soldiers in the capital.
In response, soldiers were deployed at commuter omnibus termini across the capital where they unleashed a reign of terror, in revenge for the beating of their colleagues.
The soldiers indiscriminately assaulted touts, commuters and bystanders.
It has since emerged that after the crackdown, the soldiers were ordered by their superiors to stop the operation, but others continued going to taxi ranks where they demanded money from drivers and touts.
“There was an order from army headquarters that soldiers should stop going to the ranks, but some soldiers defied the order leading to their arrest by military police,” a source said.
The soldiers were arrested on Wednesday evening and the source said they had since been detained for 40 days with hard labour.
The source added that those who were arrested included lance corporals and corporals.
A vendor at Copacabana terminus confirmed seeing a group of soldiers being rounded up by military police.
“We saw them being called and they all got into a truck, but we were not sure what was happening,” the vendor said.
However, army spokesman Alphios Makotore said he was unaware of any such arrests.
“We do not know anything about that,” he said.
Meanwhile, Police had by last week arrested close to 400 rank marshals and touts as they intensified efforts to bring sanity in the city.
Some of the touts are linked to the Mbare-based Zanu PF militia group, Chipangano, which has for years, terrorised Harare residents and commuters with impunity.
The touts and rank marshals charge kombi drivers at least US$3 per trip, part of which they pass on to mandimbandimba, who are an offshoot of Chipangano.