By Victor Maphosa
The January 16 shooting in Guinea Fowl, of Tatenda Munetsiwa by 52 Infantry Battalion soldiers who were reacting to a report of theft of copper cables, was a case of mistaken identity.
In a statement yesterday, Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) Public Relations Director Colonel Alphios Makotore said the mix-up started when William Shoko and Simon Muzondo reported to the soldiers at Guinea Fowl army base that there was a group of thieves cutting telephone copper wires.
He said a military patrol was immediately sent to the scene where a group of civilians, which included the now deceased Munetsiwa, had already set up its own ambush to try and apprehend the copper wire thieves.
“Unbeknown to each other, the soldiers’ patrol and the civilian group ambush teams were working for a common purpose, that is to apprehend the copper wire thieves. However, as fate would have it, the two groups later clashed as each of them thought the other to be the suspected copper wire thieves.
“Circumstances are that when the soldiers got to the scene they thought the copper wire thieves wanted to disarm them. To avoid being disarmed by these civilians who were armed with machetes and iron bars, the armed soldiers had no option but to open fire resulting in the unfortunate death of Munetsiwa and the injury of three others,” he said.
He said when the civilians lying in ambush saw the soldiers, they were convinced that they too were the copper wire thieves.
“As such, they sprung from the ambush intending to subdue and apprehend the soldiers.
“To demonstrate that this was an unfortunate incident, both the civilian group and the soldiers’ patrol reported at Guinea Fowl Base what happened.
“The civilians reported that they had been attacked by armed robbers, while the soldiers also reported that they had been ambushed by an armed group of copper wire thieves.”
Col Makotore said the army regretted the sad loss of an innocent life.
“It is important at this moment to avoid speculating until thorough investigations into the incident have been exhausted,” he said.
On another note, Col Makotore said the ZNA had noted with concern, the increasing number of incidents where some rogue and ill-disciplined members of the force deployed on various duties around the country were engaging in criminal activities thereby bringing the name of the army into disrepute.
“In view of the recent cases of criminal activities by members of the force, the ZNA would like to put it on record for the umpteenth time that as an organisation it does not in any way condone such behaviour nor any forms of criminality committed by any of its members purporting to be on official duty.
“Anyone found to be on the wrong side of the law will be dealt with in accordance with the laws of the country.
“Incidents of armed robberies which were reported at Gwebi River Bridge lay-by along Harare-Chinhoyi Road on January 6, 2021 and in Mutawatawa, Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe on January 19, 2021 will be thoroughly investigated and the culprits will be brought to book.” The Herald