By James Muonwa, Mashonaland West Correspondent
TWO soldiers deployed to guard a maize field in Banket belonging to a high-ranking Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) officer, are reportedly terrorising local residents who trespass to fetch firewood.
The pair has also allegedly been mounting illegal roadblocks where they demand money from motorists evading a police roadblock, and use a detour road that passes through the said farm.
During investigations by NewZimbabwe.com, sources alleged the pair, armed with rifles, recently attacked mourners at a nearby compound after a veld fire broke out, before ordering them to put out the blaze, thereby delaying burial by two hours.
According to some pirate taxi drivers who ply Banket-Trelawney-Mapinga and Banket-Maquadzi routes, the two gunmen set up a check point along a dirt road, which passes through Banket Sports Club and demand various amounts of money as “toll fees.”
“We try to evade the police on the highway by using a bush road. However, recently two soldiers started mounting their own illegal roadblock along the stretch where they demand money from us so that we can pass,” said a pirate taxi operator, who requested anonymity for fear of victimisation.
Efforts to get comment from ZNA spokesperson, Lieutenant Colonel Alphios Makotore were fruitless by the time of publishing.
The soldiers are also allegedly harrassing women and girls fetching firewood around the area with some being subjected to torture such as beatings for trespassing.
“We now use the longer route to go home as there is risk of being beaten by these soldier if found loitering around the place,” said a resident of a nearby farm compound.
Said another source, “Last week the soldiers ordered mourners at a funeral to extinguish a veld fire near the sports club at gun point. Those who tried to resist were beaten up for defying orders,” said a female resident.