Family members who spoke to The Real Change Times said most of their relatives who resigned from the army for unclear reasons were being accused of turning against the state. Most of them are subject to harsh and inhuman treatment while in prison.
One woman told The Real Change Times that she saw over thirty former army officers including her husband at the military court facing allegations of abandoning the army. She said she feared that her husband would not return from prison as so many army officers who faced the same predicament never returned home.
“What is not certain now is whether my husband will return alive or not, I have heard many reports of former army officers dying in prison for the supporting the MDC. Even the way in which the court hearing was conducted was not fair because my husband was denied an appeal,” she said.
Former military personnel have recently come under spot light from their former employers for their participation in the struggle for democracy fearing that they might leak secret information to the people’s party.
Meanwhile, Heavily armed soldiers have been deployed in the Mtshabezi area, Matabeleland South Province, a move that has left villagers here in a state of curiosity and fear.
Media reports visiting the area this week, saw soldiers patrolling and spoke to villagers who said they feared the deployment might be meant to instill fear in them and coerce them into taking certain sides as talk of possible elections gathers momentum
The soldiers have been spotted in the Madilihola area along the road leading to Bezha where the government is laying the Mtshabezi-Umzingwane water link pipeline.
Some villagers however believed the soldiers meant no harm but were there to protect the pipeline from vandalism.
Contacted for comment, Zimbabwe National Army spokesperson, Major Alphios Makotore said he was not prepared to take any questions over the phone.
“We don’t answer people on the phone,” he said before hanging up.
A villager who spoke to the media on Thursday afternoon said: “On Tuesday, I was shocked to come across a group of soldiers who were armed with AK 47 rifles and an assortment of other weapons. I was walking on the main road on my way to the fields.”
“The soldiers seem to be camping in Mathendele as they always pass through here from that direction. We wonder what they are looking for here since there is no war.”
Deputy Prime Minister, Thokozani Khupe also confirmed the presence of soldiers in the area.
She told the media tha she was “surprised” to see about 10 armed soldiers on the same road last week during her tour of the pipeline project.
“I was shocked to say the least,” Khupe said.
“One sympathises with the villagers really because they are clearly intimidated. This is a calculated move to instil fear and force them to vote for Zanu PF in the forthcoming polls.”
“The presence of soldiers may also unfortunately serve to remind villagers of Gukurahundi atrocities. It is a message to say ‘if you don’t vote for us, you may just face a repeat of the massacres,’ she said.
Another villager said the soldiers had set up a “mini-camp” near the Nsezi River.
“They have pitched up a tent in the bush there. From time to time they emerge and just patrol the area on foot carrying weapons. We don’t know what their mission is here as they have not spoken to anybody,” he said.
“On Saturday, I saw a lot of them moving up the road,” he said.
In another development, Defence Minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa says as the nation awaits to celebrate the 31st independence, the security forces should continue to safeguard and protect the country’s integrity and sovereignty.
Mnangagwa who was speaking at Defence House at a ceremony where Air Commodore Sheba Shumbayaonda was promoted to the rank of Air Vice Marshal.
Announcing the promotion which follows the retirement of Air Marshal Henry Muchena, Mnangagwa said the country’s security forces have proved to be professional and loyal.
Mnangagwa commended the security forces for serving the country with dedication and challenged other officers to take a leaf from the promotion of Air Commodore Shumbayaonda saying his promotion is a clear testimony of his loyalty, hard work and commitment to duty and service to the Zimbabwe Defence Forces as shown by his record of achievements and career path.
Present to witness the promotion was Deputy Secretary for Defence Mr. Martin Rushwaya, Acting Commander Defence Forces Air Marshal Perence shiri, Commander Zimbabwe National Army Lieutenant General, Philip Valerio Sibanda as well as other senior officers in the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.