Human rights groups have called on the military to always remain disciplined and exercise restraint when assigned to deal with civilians, saying the recent fatal shooting of seven innocent civilians in Harare two weeks ago had tainted their image.
Human Rights Watch’s southern Africa director Dewa Mavhinga yesterday said as Zimbabwe commemorates the Defence Forces Day today, it was also time for government to rein in its security forces and ensure those responsible for the shootings were brought to book.
“The conduct of some members of the Defence Forces on August 1, when they used live ammunition to shoot unarmed protesters is unacceptable, it soiled the image of Zimbabwe and must be investigated and punished,” Mavhinga said.
“Zimbabweans expect the Zimbabwe Defence Forces to be disciplined and committed to liberation struggle ideals like justice and the respect of human rights, and certainly not to behave like a militia that butchers its own people in cold blood, in broad daylight, and with impunity.”
“In a normal democracy, the Defence Forces do not play a role in policing because that is the responsibility of trained police. Where individual members of the Defence Forces commit abuses, it is expected that justice will be served and no-one goes scot free without any accountability.
“Their behaviour is deplorable; especially their leaders who are so far failing to hold rogue elements accountable,” he said.
MDC Alliance official Jacob Mafume said the military must introspect as they commemorate Defence Forces Day.
“In November 2017, they were darlings of the people, but a year later they are shooting at unarmed citizens in cold blood. A nation that kills its own defies nature and brings a curse on its people. They are there to protect Zimbabwean blood and the flag,” Mafume said.
He said the new role of the Defence Forces where they threatened human security was not in national interests.
“They must secure our democracy and human rights and not the perpetuation of particular individuals into power. They know they can earn the respect of the citizens by being on the side of the people,” he said.
Academic and political analyst Admire Mare said in the past the Defence Forces had always exuded professionalism and pride, except for a few occasions where they engaged in acts that tainted their image in the eyes of the public.
“I hope they will come out of this unfortunate episode as a professional force which the public can bank on in terms of safeguarding our territorial integrity and protecting us from foreign aggressors. The public expects a defence force which upholds the Constitution,” Mare said.
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