Death to the mutineers!
How the government plans to deal with the rioting soldiers
Following my report on the Zimbabwe army's rioting soldiers, who have been running amok in the streets of Harare, government sources are indicating that those dissident troops who can be identified will be punished by summary execution.
Since last Thursday mobs of soldiers, frustrated by lack of pay and food, have been terrorizing local citizens, targeting foreign currency dealers, and looting shops and market stalls. Their activities climaxed on Monday with a pitched battle against riot police.
Today a government source close to the Joint Operations Command, the junta that to all intents and purposes runs Zimbabwe today, told me that when President Robert Mugabe returns from his current visit to Doha, he will be recommended to impose the death penalty on the soldiers involved.
"There is a general fear in government of another Somalia here in Zimbabwe," said the source. "A stern message to all soldiers is considered necessary, and that means execution."
Earlier defence minister Sydney Sekeramyi had hinted as much, when he described the rioting troops as "rogue elements", and described their actions as "unacceptable, deplorable, reprehensible and criminal."
Meanwhile concern is growing for the safety of Jestina Mukoko, a well-known and popular human rights worker, who was abducted from her Norton, Harare, home some days ago by 15 men , believed to be members of the feared spy agency, the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO).
Jestina rose to fame as a newsreader on the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), but had moved on to work with the Zimbabwe Police Project. A statement by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said she can still not be found, All that is known is that one of the vehicles involved in the abduction was a grey Mazda 325 Familia.
ZLHR has been consistently documenting cases of politically motivated violence in the country for the past year, and has evidence that many more human rights activists have been either abducted or arrested in the past few weeks. They include a local councillor in the Banket area north west of Harare, and his wife, a provincial women's leader. So far neither husband nor wife can be found.
On the streets this week doctors and nurses marched to the Ministry of Health to protest against the almost total collapse of the public heath service, and were brutally dispersed by police. Another march by labour union members, organized by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), was broken up before it reached the Central Bank.
So the demonstrations, official and violent supressions, the abduction of human rights workers, beatings, and murders - all grow grow more numerous by the day. If our government now begins to execute protesting members of its own military establishment, can total anarchy be far away?