Zimbabwe’s state security agents claim that rogue elements who stole army uniforms attacked local people and killed some of them during protests over the declining economic situation in the country.
Addressing a press conference monitored on some media platforms Saturday, Charity Charamba, spokesperson for the Zimbabwe Republic Police, claimed that some of the uniforms were stolen in some towns and cities.
“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 14 January 2019, who were using police and military regalia to commit armed robberies after hiring vehicles from car rental companies.
“We are therefore giving an ultimatum to individuals who have retired, deserted, absented themselves without official leave (AWOL) from service to immediately handover uniforms either to the police or the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.”
She said state security agents appealed to members of the public to provide any information resulting in the arrest of people allegedly using police and army uniforms to commit crimes.
“All those who do not comply with this directive will be flushed out by already deployed members of the security services. We are also appealing to members of the public who have information on such people who are not serving members and are abusing military/police regalia to report to the police.”
Speaking at the same press conference, army spokesperson Overson Mugwisi said they are ready for the next round of protests.
"The Zimbabwe Defense Forces and security services remain committed to the provision of safety and security to all members of the public … In the same vein, we would want to warn those bent on causing mayhem that the law will be applied without fear or favor."
Charamba and Magwisi could not shed light on people who died during the protests and an estimated 600 locals arrested between Monday and Saturday.
Human rights organizations immediately dismissed the police and army claims, saying they were covering up the atrocities they committed during and after the protests.
They linked some of the people being sought as security agents who were allegedly sponsored by the spy network, the Central Intelligence Organization, Zimbabwe National Army and Zimbabwe Republic Police.
The protests were sparked by fuel price increases of up to 150 percent announced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa last Saturday before he left for a five-nation tour in Europe.
The Zimbabwe economy has been of late facing hyperinflation fueled by the devaluation of the quasi-currency, the bond note.