The army will not summarily punish soldiers that are alleged to have shot six civilians during the August 1 2018 violent protests as it is presently following due process to get to the bottom of the matter, as evidence suggests they could have been a “third hand at play”, Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) Commander General Philip Valerio Sibanda has said.
In an interview with Zimpapers Television Network (ZTN), Gen Sibanda said the army has not allowed the soldiers to go scot-free and if investigations concluded that the soldiers were culpable, they would “certainly be taken to book”.
According to State media, Gen Sibanda also said the current divisions among Zimbabweans were unfortunate.
“Well, we continue with investigations, some action has been taken but we continue with investigations to establish exactly whether there were any of our members who actually shot civilians. Like I said during the commission, there was a third hand at play in the disturbances of the 1st of August last year.
“This is why there was a report that some shots were fired from some buildings and I think that is ample proof to show that there was a third hand at play. And yes, we have not allowed our soldiers, the culprits to go scot-free, we still want to establish who exactly did it because what I don’t want to do as a commander is punish a soldier for something he didn’t do.
“So I need to be definite that this is the individual who did this and we will deal with them,” he said.
Gen Sibanda said while the Constitution provides for mass demonstrations, anarchy – violence, arson and looting – was a “no-no”.
“. . . but the Constitution is very clear, I think Section 59, it says you are allowed to demonstrate, you are allowed to petition provided it is peaceful, and that is the keyword, peaceful. When people start going around town burning and looting and so on, that is no longer peaceful and won’t be allowed to happen because now you are interfering with other people’s freedoms and you are also destroying other people’s properties and that is anarchy, we can’t allow that.”
When faced with anarchy, he added, the army would always respond proportionately to restore order in the shortest possible time.
Added Gen Sibanda: “I am not sure whether this relates to the incidence of the 1st of August last year and the 14th of January, but really we have not been heavy-handed. We have only responded in a manner that allows the situation to be brought to normalcy in the shortest possible time. It is unfortunate that lives have been lost in the process, but you cannot allow a situation of anarchy to prevail. That certainly is a no-no.”