Smothered, Oppressed and Crushed: Monthly Monitoring Report – February 2021

Executive Summary

On 27 February 2021, two soldiers, who are part of the troops operating in Chipinge, near the Zimbabwean border with Mozambique, allegedly assaulted a civilian to death.

The details of the killings were kept under wraps and even as the body was taken to Chako Police Station in the area, police kept a tight lid on what transpired, in what is clearly meant to protect the assailants.

According to the information gathered by the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), the deceased allegedly got into a misunderstanding with one of the soldiers. The soldier then teamed up with a colleague, and while accusing the now deceased of being a member of the rebel RENAMO army of Mozambique, took turns to assault him until he died.

The matter is linked to the many allegations of abuse of civilians and corrupt activities allegedly being carried out by the soldiers operating in the area.

Elsewhere, on 1 February, two Beitbridge-based police officers sustained injuries after they were allegedly assaulted by army commandos deployed in the area. The two police officers, Detective Sergeant Albert Gonye and Detective Constable Kurai Marongere of the Criminal Investigations Department were, according to NewsDay, tracking suspects believed to be stealing from haulage trucks when they were attacked and detained by a group of soldiers.

These two incidents, although appearing to be isolated, speak to the pattern observed in February, where some soldiers deployed across the country committed various human rights abuses targeting mostly civilians. The incidents also show the impunity with which the abuses were carried out as the perpetrators were not held to account and in both cases, the authorities denied the incidents happened.

The Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA), contributed to 12.12 percent of perpetrators in February 2021, and they come second after the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), who contributed 59.66 percent. For the ZRP, the majority of violations occurred during the enforcement of lockdown measures, which the President extended to the end of the month. Since people were required to have exemption letters in order to travel, and were supposed to wear masks, police officers took advantage of the fines, which were raised to as high as ZW$5,000 for level 1 offences, to abuse citizens caught on the wrong side of the law. Soon after the announcement of the increase in fines, police patrol activity targeting citizens increased and ZPP documented an increase in arbitrary and random arrests especially at business centres across the country.

Just as with every other month before, February was marred by increased density of human rights violations, and increased vulnerability among citizens. So, in addition to being on the receiving end of state security agents’ penchant to violate human rights, citizens spent yet another month under lockdown, hungry and unable to open their informal businesses in a clear case of a population that remained smothered, oppressed and crushed!

Read the full report here (2MB PDF)

Source: Zimbabwe Peace Project

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