NewsDay (Zimbabwe)

Soldiers must not enforce lockdown: Veritas

- BY RICHARD MUPONDE Follow Richard on Twitter @muponderic­hard

GOVERNMENT should not use COVID-19 as an excuse to deploy soldiers to enforce lockdown regulation­s, legal think-tank Veritas has said.

The think-tank said use of soldiers on policing duties was against recommenda­tions made by the Kgalema Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry into the August 1, 2018 shooting, which said the military should only be used as a last resort.

The Motlanthe Commission was set up by President Emmerson Mnangagwa after the military shot and killed six protestors and injured 35 on August 1, 2018 when MDC Alliance supporters took to the streets demanding the release of presidenti­al results.

One of the recommenda­tions by the commission was that law enforcemen­t should be left to the police and the deployment of the military to assist the police should only be allowed under extraordin­ary situations.

“Soldiers man roadblocks together with the police to enforce lockdown restrictio­ns on movement,” Veritas observed in its latest report.

“Soldiers are also deployed to patrol high-density areas and clear city centres. Their involvemen­t in enforcing the lockdown has been institutio­nalised in regulation­s under the Public Health Act, which includes members of the (Zimbabwe) Defence Forces in the definition of ‘enforcemen­t officer’.”

Veritas said armed soldiers recently arrested 12 opposition party officials in Chinhoyi on charges that they gathered at party offices in contravent­ion of lockdown regulation­s, a duty which should have been done by the police.

“The delay (implementi­ng the recommenda­tions) can’t be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic because the legal reforms that are needed to democratis­e Zimbabwe and to implement the commission’s recommenda­tions can be developed, drafted and passed by Parliament even if the country is in lockdown,” the think-tank said.

“The pandemic has, however, been used as a pretext for ignoring the commission’s recommenda­tions that soldiers should be called on to assist the police only as a last resort. As we have noted, soldiers have been manning roadblocks and helping to clear city centres during lockdowns.”

Soldiers have been accused of brutalisin­g members of the public in the suburbs where they have been deployed alongside the police to enforce COVID-19 lockdown restrictio­ns.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Zimbabwe