HARARE – Soldiers deployed at Mataga Growth Point in Mberengwa are harassing villagers in the area for failing to produce identification documents (ID) and allegedly backing Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC.
The soldiers were deployed at a small army camp at Mataga under the so- called “Operation Maguta”. They have been on a rampage since Christmas Day, beating up villagers randomly, accusing them of disrespecting them.
On Wednesday they descended at Makinya Business Centre in Chingoma area demanding that everyone at the centre produce ID cards.
Ishmael Chikwari and Edmund Dziva were severely beaten by the officers after they failed to produce the IDs.
The army officers proceeded to Mundi-Mataga Dam where they beat up villagers who were fishing and seized three buckets of fish.
They accused them of fishing from the dam illegally.
The soldiers early this week also stormed the homestead of Trynos Shava, MDC provincial secretary for Defence, who stays adjacent to Mataga, but he managed to escape.
Shava reported the matter at Zvishavane Police Station and to the Joint Monitoring Implementation Committee (Jomic).
Last week another group of soldiers from the same camp descended on Musume Lutheran Church Mission just a few kilometres from Mataga and beat up villager Cornelius Vutsvene, accusing him of disrespecting them.
Tamuka Ndhlera, a security guard at Hungwe Store, was also severely beaten by the soldiers and was admitted at Musume Hospital.
Speaking to the Daily News at Mataga yesterday, Zenzo Hove, the MDC deputy provincial secretary said army officers have turned Mataga into a “war zone” and residents were living in fear.
“The area now resembles a war zone, the soldiers are going around beating up innocent people and we condemn this behaviour,” Hove said.
“This is a just a way to put fear in people as elections are approaching. It’s high time they should go away; they have caused too much suffering here.
“We don’t want them here anymore they should go back to their barracks, we are not at war,” fumed Hove.
MDC Mberengwa East district director for elections, Tirivangani Gadu-Matavire said the army officers were taking the law into their own hands. He said two weeks ago they stormed Mataga Night Club and beat up revellers who were drinking in the bar after one of the soldiers lost a snooker match.
Midlands provincial police spokesperson Emmanuel Mahoko said: “We encourage all those affected to report to the nearest police station so that police can deal with this matter, but we will definitely look at those cases reported to us.”
In another occurrence, soldiers allegedly held a meeting with villagers at Danga Hall in the presence of chiefs in December to warn them against voting for the MDC in the coming election.
According to one villager, the meeting was held by six uniformed soldiers on December 18.
Only one of the soldiers introduced himself to the chiefs as Lieutenant Colonel Mzilikazi of Five Brigade, the villagers told the Daily News.
“They warned everyone against voting for MDC,” the villager said. “The chiefs were given a task to monitor movements of their people and report anyone who they suspect to be MDC.”
The Daily News heard that four chiefs attended the meeting namely Chief Chingoma, Chief Mataga, Chief Mataruse and Chief Mahlebadza.
“Since then soldiers have been unusually seen all around Mberengwa,” the villager, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.
The army spokesperson Alphious Makotore requested written questions, which were sent to him. – Pindai Dube and Bridget Mananavire