Victor Maphosa – Herald Reporter
The Guinea Fowl shooting incident which occurred on January 16, resulting in the death of Tatenda Munetsiwa after being shot by 52 Infantry Battalion soldiers who were reacting to a report of theft of copper cables, was a case of mistaken identity, the Zimbabwe National Army has said.
In a statement released this afternoon, ZNA director of public relations Colonel Alphios Makotore said the mix-up emanated from the fact that 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 wire, a military patrol was immediately sent out to the scene.
“Meanwhile, a group of civilians which had, among them the now deceased Munetsiwa had already set up its own ambush to try and apprehend the reported copper wire thieves.
“Unbeknown to each other, the soldiers’ patrol and the civilian group ambush teams were working for a common purpose to apprehend the copper wire thieves. However, as fate would have it, the two groups later clashed as they each other of being the suspected copper wire thieves.
“Circumstances are that when the soldiers got into the ambush, they thought the copper wire thieves wanted to disarm them. To resist 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 had transpired during the incident. 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.”
Colonel Makotore added that against this sad development where an innocent life was lost, it would be unfair on the part of the involved soldiers for everyone to suggest that they were armed robbers when all the facts are there for all to see.
“It is important at this moment to avoid speculating until thorough investigations into the incident have been exhausted and the air cleared as to what actually transpired on the fateful day,” he said.
On a separate note, Col Makotore said the ZNA had noted with concern the increasing number of incidents where some rogue and undisciplined members of the force deployed on various duties around the country are wantonly engaging in criminal activities thereby bringing the name of the organisation 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-bye along Harare-Chinhoyi Road on January 6 and in Mutawatawa, Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe on January 19 will be thoroughly investigated and the culprits will be brought to book.”
He said the accused rogue soldiers in both these above incidents have since been arrested by the Zimbabwe Republic Police and are appearing in court.