via No soldiers at Chingwizi: Chiwenga 10 August 2014
THE military has not deployed personnel to help quell disturbances by flood victims at Chingwizi camp in south-eastern Zimbabwe, defence forces commander Constantine Chiwenga has said.
He was responding to media reports that the army had embarked on a campaign of terror following skirmishes between the police and flood victims who have resisted government attempts to move them to designated sites.
“We have no personnel at Chingwizi and these reports are nothing but malice aimed at soiling the good name of the country’s soldiers. We have no business resettling civilians because we did our job getting them out of the floods,” Chiwenga told journalists Sunday.
“The civilian authorities should answer the questions around who was responsible for those disturbances.”
The head of the country’s security forces was briefing journalists ahead of Monday’s Defence Forces Day commemorations.
The majority of those arrested were granted bail following the intervention of human rights lobby group, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR).
Chiredzi Magistrate’s Court was last Tuesday reduced to a virtual hospital ward when the 29 Chingwizi camp dwellers, part of a group bashed by police and soldiers during a raid on the settlement, undressed to exhibit their injuries during the bail hearings.
The villagers were charged with public violence after being rounded up by “soldiers”, a claim Chiwenga is now disputing.
Lawyers representing the villagers accused authorities of using unorthodox means during the raids and subsequent arrests.
ZLHR representative, Dzimbabgwe Chimbgwa, said lawyers were denied access to their clients until just moments before their appearance in court.
“The constitution is very clear in saying that the accused persons must be made aware of the charges that they are facing, they must then be allowed access to their lawyers, they must also be able to access food and medication and all these things were not followed,” Chimbgwa told journalists in Masvingo.
“You cannot assault or use violence in an effort to arrest people unless you say that you were using that violence to bring the people under arrest that is if they were resisting of which that was not the case.”
According to the reports police were assisted by soldiers to bundle the arrested villagers into vehicles following a dawn raid.
About 20,000 villagers are resisting attempts by the government to relocate them to new one hectare plots before they are given $4,000 per family which they were promised when they accepted relocation from the flood-prone Tokwe Mukosi area earlier this year.