Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa Monday said he had ordered the arrest of soldiers and police officers caught on camera by a British television beating civilians during protests.
President Mnangagwa’s government has been under pressure to end a military crackdown that began on January 14, when labour unions organised protests against a 150 percent fuel price increase.
The military has repeatedly dismissed reports that soldiers were killing and torturing civilians during the clampdown, claiming impostors were behind the violence.
However, the Sky News report showing a policeman striking a man with a truncheon on his head, accompanied by a soldier, drew an immediate response from President Mnangagwa, who said the security forces’ behaviour was not the “Zimbabwean way”.
“I am appalled by today’s Sky News report. This is not the Zimbabwean way,” the president tweeted.
“I have instructed that the individuals behind this be arrested and encourage all those impacted to contact the authorities and file an official complaint.”
According to human rights groups, 12 people were killed at the height of the protests and several others have been treated for gunshot wounds.
The main opposition MDC, led by Mr Nelson Chamisa, at the weekend submitted a report to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) claiming that it had become a target of the security forces during the crackdown.
In the report titled; State sponsored crackdown, microwave justice and prisoners of political conscience, MDC said the army was behind a string of rape cases, torture and abduction of opposition activists.
“In Hopley, 14 women were raped by soldiers, while four women from Epworth were also raped out of the 13 assaulted people,” reads the report.
“Another 28 victims who were receiving treatment were rounded up and taken to Harare Central police station before they were released to the medical facility the next day.
“Others are just too afraid to report and are recuperating from home for fear of retribution.”
The MDC said five MPs, nine councillors and four of its employees had been arrested during the joint army operation.
At least 43 opposition MPs and several councillors had gone into hiding after government arrested over 800 people accused of taking part in the protests.
“There was targeted persecution of MDC leaders, Members of Parliament, councillors and perceived members by state security agents and Zanu PF militia,” the report added.
“Detained party leadership and perceived supporters were systematically denied bail throughout the country.
“A de-facto state of emergency is what is obtaining currently, leading to a curtailment of basic freedoms.”
President Mnangagwa’s government has come under intense international pressure to end the human rights abuses.
In August last year, soldiers shot dead six civilians who were protesting against delays in the release of presidential election results held the previous month.
A commission of inquiry led by former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe last month, recommended the prosecution of the soldiers and police officers behind the deaths, but no one has been arrested in connection with the killings.