- Southern Africa
Zimbabwe: Lawlessness rife as military shoots at police during football match
Spokesperson defends the lawless soldiers
Zimbabwean soldiers upped their lawlessness after seven soldiers led by a lieutenant armed with assault rifles stormed a soccer pitch and shot a policeman who they accused of snatching their colleagues girlfriend. The incident took place on Sunday at Dingumuzi Stadium in Plumtree, south of Zimbabwe.
Witnesses said the police officer, who is now fighting for dear life at Plumtree Hospital, was caught in a cross-fire. The soldiers, reportedly, from the 1.3 Infantry Battalion, situated in Plumtree town are still carrying on with business as usual as none of them had been arrested Tuesday evening.
The region’s police spokesman, Assistant Inspector Trust Ndlovu confirmed the incident but refused to release more information. However, witnesses said the seven soldiers entered the stadium, as the referee was about to start the second half in a match between Border Kings and a police outfit, Red Swallows.
"The soldiers told the referee that they wanted to deal with a player from Border Kings whom they accused of beating up their colleague in a fight over a girlfriend. However, the members of the police playing for Red Swallows blocked the soldiers from taking the man with them and they went away," said a witness.
But the match proceeded to full time and just as the players were changing from their kits soldiers invaded the pitch. "Some of them used the gate to the stadium while others jumped over the fence. Sensing danger the man that the soldiers were looking for ran towards the police team to get protection," said the witness.
The soldiers who were initially led by a lieutenant assaulted the referee with a belt before proceeding to surround the police football team while pointing cocked guns at them. "The lieutenant was armed with a CZ pistol while the others pointed AK rifles to the team members. They demanded that the police team hand over the person they had come for but the police told them that they had the constitutional right to arrest the person if he had committed any crime," said the witness.
At that point the lieutenant reportedly got furious and fired a shot in the air while three other soldiers fired on the ground. "It is after the shooting that they realised that one of the officers had been hit with a bullet. This did not deter them as they threatened to shoot if the police made any attempt to arrest any of them," said the witness.
He also added that the officer who was shot had just come out of the field and was seated on the ground, removing his boots. When the shots were fired, the soccer players and supporters scurried for cover. The soldiers are however said to have fled when angry members of the public regained their composure and confronted them over the shooting.
One Brigade public relations officer, Lieutenant Richard Mhizha confirmed the incident but denied that the soldiers were on a mission to shoot and kill. “It is not true that the soldiers had intentions of killing. It was an accidental discharge, a ricochet like," said Lt Mhizha. “If it was an aimed shot as some people are alleging then we could be talking of something else. I also want to make it clear that there is no bad blood between the soldiers and the police. Our relations are excellent.”
Zimbabwe soldiers are notorious of ganging up on civilian’s every time any of their colleagues are involved in quarrels in the suburbs.