People living in Matabeleland South have complained about unusual movements and threats from members of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces deployed in the area, which has created tension in the community.
Matabeleland was the theatre of the Gukurahundi genocide which claimed the lives of an estimated 50 000 Ndebeles and moderate Shonas who were accused by the regime of dictator Robert Mugabe of backing his political rival, the Zapu leader Joshua Nkomo.
Large numbers of troops have been seen in the area, according to Matabeleland South senator Bheki Sibanda.
“The people in Matabeleland tend to fear each time they see the Army as exemplified by the Army recently being spotted in Matobo causing a lot of tension,” Sibanda said.
The senator said this was “exemplified by the recent incident when the Army was spotted around Matobo and it caused unnecessary concern among people”.
Defence minister Sidney Sekeramayi accused people who were panicking over the army movements were criminals. He claimed the defence forces were conducting a recruitment exercise.
“The Zimbabwe Defence Forces, the Army and the Air Force are recruited from the people. During recruitment time, there will be people aspiring to be in the Defence Forces and the recruitment takes place in every province,” Sekeramayi said. “There will be a recruitment programme in this province and that province so that the whole population is represented in the Defence Forces. I am sure there are young daughters and sons in Matobo who are as we speak in the Defence Forces. The mere presence of the Army should not unsettle people but if you have a situation where some people are doing something irregular and they fear to be seen doing what is illegal, they get perturbed. Any other law abiding citizen should always welcome the presence of the Defence Forces in any part of the country. It is our wish that the relationship between the Defence Forces and the ordinary people should be as friendly as possible. There should be no reason for anybody to be afraid of the presence of the Army in any part of the country, in their village, town and so forth.”
Zimbabwean security forces launched a brutal campaign to rid Matabeleland of Zapu supporters. Twenty thousand people were confirmed to have been murdered, with some bodies being dumped in disused mines or buried in mass graves. Up to 30 000 people have not been accounted for.
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