Human rights groups have called on authorities to stop the ongoing military crackdown, amid a rising death toll from the brutal operation.
At least 17 people are now said to have died after being shot at by security forces, with more than one hundred others seriously wounded since ugly fuel protests flared around the country last month, the rights groups say.
The Human Rights NGO Forum — a conglomeration of local NGOs — said this week that there was a “de facto state of emergency” and ongoing “reign of terror” by the military.
The NGO Forum also said it had documented at least 17 extra-judicial killings, 16 rapes, 26 abductions and more than 600 assaults.
“The violations are systematic, unleashed mainly by male perpetrators whom the victims identified as wearing either military or police attire, armed with AK rifles and or batons, travelling in army and police vehicles.
“The targets of attack were initially the male population in high density suburbs but later became indiscriminate to include women and young girls,” the NGO Forum said.
In the meantime, Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) major-general Douglas Nyikayaramba has denied that his men were responsible for the shootings of unarmed civilians and the rape of women during the violent crackdown on protesters.
Nyikayaramba also told the media on Wednesday that there was no question of soldiers being withdrawn from the streets until the police were certain all was well in the country.
“Well, as long as the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) is on top of the situation and they tell us that they are now in control and in charge, there is no reason for us to continue with the deployments because we have other commitments elsewhere, particularly training during peace time to perfect our skills and professionalism,” he said.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International says authorities have resorted to barbaric tactics to crush demonstrations.
“Killings, reports of rape by military personnel and widespread arbitrary arrests of many protesters and non-protesters, have cast doubts on hopes that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government wants a better future for Zimbabweans where respect for human rights is the norm.
“Scores of human rights defenders, activists, opposition and civil society leaders suspected of organising protests have gone into hiding fearing for their lives as a State-sponsored witch-hunt continues, and several women are fearing for the worst after reportedly being raped by uniformed soldiers,” it said. Daily News