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Zimbabwe’s Mugabe uses fear to avoid possible protests

March 4, 2011

www.rnw.nl

Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe is said to have deployed soldiers to control the capital amid growing insecurity by his regime which fears that the anti-government protests in the Middle East may soon catch up with Zimbabwe.

By Innocent Munetsi, Harare

Soldiers both on foot and in armored trucks have been seen patrolling in neighborhoods of the capital Harare. They have set up tents at local police stations and have created roadblocks, stopping and searching cars and everyone they meet.

Chitungwiza, a stronghold of Mugabe’s political rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, is one of the perceived hotspots that have been cordoned off by pro-Mugabe soldiers.

This is the testimony of Leonard Chuma, a resident of Chitungwiza, Harare’s satellite town situated 25 kilometres to the south:

“Soldiers weren’t spared”
“The night club entrance was sealed off. In seconds, there were dozens of soldiers inside. The DJ was ordered to stop the music and we were all ordered to lie down on our stomachs. Armed soldiers walked on our bodies pouring beer all over us.”

“Almost everyone was kicked and beaten up. Even soldiers and police officers who were dressed in plain clothes were not spared. The soldiers accused us of trying to overthrow President Mugabe.”

“When the soldiers left 20 minutes later, they ordered everyone to remain on the floor and threatened to kill anyone who would dare rise up. Still shaken by this, we lay there for any hour until someone came to tell us they had gone.”

Unexpected police searches
A resident of Harare’s high density Mabvuku suburb, Stanley Kadani, has a similar story:

“I was ordered to lie on my stomach on the tarred road. My hands were clamped together from behind. I was bashed all over my body with the butt of an AK rifle.”

Kadani, a security guard, was cycling home in the politically restive township Monday night:

“I was stopped by about eight soldiers who demanded to know where I was coming from. My pockets were searched. One of them took and scrolled my mobile phone. The beating intensified when they saw a teasing message sent by a friend suggesting I was ‘as stubborn as Robert Mugabe’.

Going home early
“I was forced to limp the remaining four kilometers home. It was still impossible to cycle as my tyres had been deflated.”

Kadani says he suffered an aching back and swollen legs and was bleeding through the mouth.

As the soldier menace continues, most frightened residents now prefer to remain indoors while those who go to work now come home earlier.

Minister: “Business as usual”
But despite the conspicuous and unusual presence of uniformed soldiers on the streets, defence minister Emmerson Mnangawa sees this as a non issue.

“This is usual. It has nothing to do with the so-called uprising. If anyone says they have been beaten up by the soldiers they can go to the police,” he said.

Mnangagwa, a top ally to Mugabe, said Zimbabwe’s military was ready to crush any Egyptian-style protests in Zimbabwe last month.

Mugabe’s political rival Tsvangirai, whose MDC party is agitating for reforms to the country’s security forces, has accused Mugabe of unleashing the military on civilians to pressurize them into voting for Mugabe’s party.

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