Clashes broke out between soldiers and riot police in Harare on Monday after a group of about 200 uniformed soldiers ran amok. Eyewitnesses say soldiers went berserk after they couldn’t withdraw their monthly salaries from the banks.
The Deputy Mayor of Harare, Emmanuel Chiroto, said he saw the soldiers singing war songs and throwing stones and other missiles on to moving cars. They also looted clothes from shops in Africa Unity Square. Watching the mayhem from his office at Town House he said at first the police were forced to flee, but later returned with anti riot reinforcement.
Associated Press journalist Angus Shaw said he had to leave the city centre by late afternoon, as the situation became too dangerous. He said at Fourth Street Road Port bus station the uniformed soldiers went around grabbing money from forex dealers. Shaw witnessed at least two shops coming under attack and many other shop owners were forced to erect barriers to protect their properties.
Such is the level of discontent that unemployed people were seen singing in solidarity with the rampaging soldiers. The journalist said there was popular support from mostly desperate people, who have also not been able to withdraw money for days. He said some of the people were standing on buses and cheering the soldiers on.
Shaw said: “I saw the police coming in. I saw riot police fighting unarmed soldiers with riot sticks. The trucks of riot police were coming in and the Fourth Street was totally blocked with people whistling and cheering on the soldiers and holding up open hand salutes of the MDC.”
The journalist said there is a seething discontent among the rank and file of the armed forces ‘and although we can’t talk about the end game this is the first time that we have seen this kind of discontent.’
Another eyewitness called Moses said he saw soldiers looting shops and raiding some banks. “The message we got from the military was that ‘we are together please follow us, don’t attack us because we’ve got a cause.’ So people were not so sure if they were being truthful and later on people joined the military and sang in solidarity.”
SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news