Zimbabwe Soldiers Open Fire At Football Match, Hitting A Police Officer

Harare, Zimbabwe, 18 October 2009

For remanding in custody three soldiers who were part of a group that fired live ammunition at policemen at a football match, a Magistrate in Plumtree has received death threats in a letter that threatened to "blow up" his head unless he "change(d) his ways and start(ed) supporting the Government".

The Magistrate is now hiding while the police say they are looking for a group of soldiers whom they have identified as suspects in the matter.

The facts are that on October 11, fourteen soldiers in uniform and armed with loaded AK 47 rifles, showed up at Dinguzimu Stadium in Matabeleland South Province, where there was a social match between a police team and Border Kings Football Club of Plumtree.

When they got there, the soldiers' leader (who is one of the soldiers remanded in custody), a Lieutenant Victor Mugo, ordered match officials and referees to stop the match.

The other thirteen soldiers cocked their rifles at this point.

The armed soldiers then demanded to speak to Ashley Muzari, a Border Kings Football Club player. He sought the protection of the police who were on the scene watching their team play.

The soldiers did not like this one bit and opened fire, hitting one of the policemen in the arm. At this point, the angry residents of Plumtree who were watching the match then confronted the soldiers, who are said to then have fled.

Lt. Victor Mugo and two other soldiers (Trust Matenda and Tapiwa Chigiji) were subsequently arrested and brought before Plumtree Resident Magistrate Mark Dziva.

Dziva remanded the three in custody, which is what then prompted the soldiers who were still free to send a letter to him threatening to blow up his head on October 25. They told him that his days in Plumtree were numbered.

The soldiers in custody are facing charges of attempted murder and discharging a firearm in public.

It is not quite clear what the Border Kings Football player had done to raise the ire of the soldiers, but unofficial sources in Plumtree say the matter has to do with a woman.

Which raises the question of why the soldiers were threatening Mr Dziva for "not supporting the government."

Plumtree Police, however, say they have identified suspects and are looking for them at the moment, since they have gone into hiding.

Zimbabwean soldiers and policemen do not see eye at all. It is a fundamental rivalry of uniformed forces, with the soldiers always referring to policeman as "cardboards", a reference to the colour of Zimbabwe's police uniform.

This is also an indication of just how out of control the armed forces in Zimbabwe have now become, if they can walk into a stadium in broad daylight in their uniforms and fire at civilians and policemen.

That this was done as a result of a personal dispute, with nothing to do at all with the country, is also a cause for grave concern.

At least the police refused to be intimidated and are still pursuing the soldiers, despite the threats and the evident bad blood between the two forces in Plumtree.


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