12 Soldiers Disappear From Barracks

Twelve soldiers who have "disappeared" from Pomona Barracks in Harare are said to be held at the notorious Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison, where they have been tortured so badly that their relatives are barred from visiting them. The soldiers apparently were arrested in connection with the alleged disappearance of 20 AK 47 guns from the same barracks. An MDC-Tsvangirai employee is currently before the courts facing the same charge.

Harare, Zimbabwe, 08 November 2009

It is reported here today that twelve soldiers who disappeared from Pomona Barracks a few days ago are being kept at Chikurubi Maximum Prison, where they are being so badly tortured and in such bad shape that their relatives and friends are not allowed to visit them.

Some of the soldiers' relatives do not even know that their kinsmen have been arrested, since they were taken straight from Barracks to Chikurubi.

The soldiers were arrested in the wake of the theft of firearms from Pomona Barracks, a case that has also roped in Pascal Gwezere, an MDC-Tsvangirai employee. Gwezere was in court last week facing charges of stealing the firearms with the help of soldiers whose whereabouts the state claimed in court were not known.

The Zimbabwe Standard spoke to a source who insisted that the soldiers' whereabouts are very much known to the state. It is just that they have been so badly abused that they can not be produced in court. Gwezere himself is fighting against the continuance of his trial, alleging severe torture, including torture on his private parts.

The Zimbabwe police, through their spokesman Oliver Mandipaka, say they know nothing about the arrest of the soldiers. These, of course, are the same policemen who claimed they knew nothing about the abduction of Jestina Mukoko, only to see her surface from their cells in December last year after months of denial. So their credibility is zero.

The Zimbabwe National Army says 20 AK 47 rifles and a shotgun were stolen from Pomona and they are certain that Gwezere and the soldiers who are now in detention know about this matter.

Gwezere claims that apart from wanting information on the theft of the rifles and shotgun, his abductors also wanted to know what the Prime Minister's "Plan B" was if his disengagement from ZANU PF failed to give him what he wants.

Just a couple of weeks back, another soldier appeared in court on charges of stealing a firearm, which he admitted taking, saying he had sold it in order to buy food and pay school fees for his children.

The paltry salaries that Zimbabwe's rank and file soldiers get are a big contributing factor in the rise in the theft of army property by serving men. They, unlike their leaders, have to make do with around US$150 per month.

It is almost certain that, when the time comes, the soldiers who are said to have disappeared from Pomona will suddenly find themselves in court, facing the same charges that Gwezere faces.

It is puzzling, though, that the army has decided to take this route with the soldiers, since it is common knowledge that they prefer to deal with errant soldiers themselves in their own court-martial process. They so detest the Zimbabwe Republic Police that they do not allow any ZRP policeman to arrest a Zimbabwean soldier. That job is for the Military Police.


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