Soldiers assault residents over blocked roads during ‘stay-away’
By Lance Guma
13 December 2006
A call for a mass stay-away Wednesday by an unknown group using texts and e-mails was largely ignored countrywide, but the day did not go without incident. Our correspondent in Harare Simon Muchemwa reports that residents in Budiriro and Glenview put up boulders and stone barriers at High Glen shopping centre to block traffic going into town. Around 5am a military truck packed with soldiers arrived at the scene and the officers disembarked to confront early morning commuters trying to go to work. The soldiers are alleged to have forced the innocent commuters to remove the road barriers and in the ensuing melee many were assaulted.
Witnesses say many commuters ran away from the area and the soldiers responded with indiscriminate assaults on those they could catch. The incident further highlights the growing influence of the army in policing civilians and running state institutions in general. A diamond mine in Marange, which was seized from a British-listed company, is currently being guarded by soldiers who have already been accused of mining the diamonds themselves. Several retired soldiers have also taken over the running of government parastatals in what observers say is the militarization of all state structures.
On Monday this week an organisation using an e-mail address titled Mass Action and using Save Zimbabwe 06 in its address, distributed an e-mail calling for a mass stay-away. The e-mail read, ‘Let us all stay away from work. Prices are skyrocketing, especially for food, health and school fees. So are transport fares and we cannot afford to go to work or to our rural homes.’ The e-mail proceeded to say, ‘enough is enough, cowards will go to work at personal risk, business will open at personal risk, motorists will move at personal risk.’ Several activists remained sceptical about heeding the call.