Beitbridge residents have called for the withdrawal of recently-deployed commandos from a crack Zimbabwe National Army unit and the Zimbabwe Republic Police Support Unit from Chikurubi who are allegedly terrorising members of the public.
The 414-man team was deployed at the start of the level 4 national lockdown on 5 January to combat smuggling and other illegal activities in Beitbridge.
However, the teams are being accused of committing robberies, extortion, arbitrary arrests, damaging of property and military-style ill-treatment of suspects.
National police spokesman Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi acknowledged the reports on human rights abuses, saying those who break the law will be arrested. He said:
I am aware of the cases reported in Beitbridge. No one is above the law. Anyone who commits offences will be arrested.
Meanwhile, in a leaked memo seen by the NewsDay, the teams told their superiors that Customs and Excise and Immigration departments officials are part of the problem. The memo read:
The situation in Beitbridge is generally calm, but villagers have mixed feelings since they survived on smuggling.
Our stakeholders, Zimra [Zimbabwe Revenue Authority] and Immigration Department are also not happy since they are used to conniving with crooks at Beitbridge.
So far History Sibanda (36) and Shepherd Muchengi (34), a commando and a police Support Unit member were arrested on armed robbery allegations.
However, Beitbridge residents believe more still needs to be done to deal with the team’s excesses. Beitbridge East legislator Albert Nguluvhe said:
We have heard and taken note of complaints from the community and will take it up with the authorities.