The Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) are set to conduct door–to-door searches countrywide to look for army regalia allegedly used by “rogue elements” in society to commit crimes.

In a notice to the public, the army’s communications department said they would conduct “snap searches” that would include confiscating camouflage fashion apparel.

According to section 99 (2) (c) of the Defence Act, civilians are barred from wearing anything resembling military gear.

“Members of the public are urged to voluntarily surrender these clothing items to the search teams before the searches are conducted or surrender them to the nearest police station or camp. Please be warned and comply accordingly to avoid any inconveniences that might be caused by the exercise,” reads the notice.

During the riots from January 14 to 16 that led to thousands being arrested – and left at least 12 dead and hundreds wounded – the army blamed rogue soldiers and deserters for causing mayhem.

Human rights groups shared videos online of soldiers and police moving door-to-door in urban areas, beating up and shooting people suspected to have participated in protests. In some footage, uniformed forces led from the front in looting sprees.

“Some of these uniforms worn by criminals were seized by rogue elements during the recent riots in Epworth and Chegutu. A case in point is a recent arrest of five armed robbers in Epworth, Harare, on January 14 2019, who were using police and military regalia to commit armed robberies after hiring vehicles from car rental companies,” said senior police assistant commissioner Charity Charamba at the time.

But the opposition MDC Alliance rejected the “stolen uniforms” narrative as a mere cover-up.

“They can’t expect us to believe that as state security agents they were robbed of their own uniforms and stuff,” said Nkululeko Sibanda, spokesman for MDC leader Nelson Chamisa.

Last week, a Harare man, Shepherd Magorimbo, admitted in court to terrorising residents while wearing a military uniform he got from the Zanu-PF headquarters.

“We were given the uniform at the party office,” he told the Harare magistrate’s court as he answered questions from prosecutor Shepherd Makonde.

Source : TimesLive

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