Discipline is starting to fail in the ranks of the Zimbabwe Defence Force as rampant inflation, food and potable water shortages as well as a cholera epidemic brought on by the collapse of urban sanitation makes life in South Africa’s northern neighbour near unbearable.
as well as AFP reports
that soldiers ran amok in Harare yesterday, attacking money changers before vandalising and looting Chinese and Nigerian-owned shops.
The soldiers, who a ZimOnline
correspondent at the scene estimated at about 50 men, turned violent apparently out of frustration after spending several hours waiting in a queue at a bank in downtown Harare attempting to withdraw cash.
“The soldiers turned on the money changers (illegal foreign currency dealers), accusing them of getting cash from Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono to buy foreign currency for the central bank while everyone else is struggling to get cash,” the correspondent said.
While the soldiers initially targeted people they suspected to be money-changers, they generally became violent and broke into shops mostly owned by Nigerians and Chinese traders where they looted goods, the reporter added.
AFP confirmed the report, but without citing numbers.
Police were then called in to deal with the unarmed soldiers. Shots were fired into the air and teargas was used to disperse the troops. Scores of young men joined in chasing after the soldiers and throwing stones at them.
AFP and The Zimbabwean add that inflation in the former garden state is now estimated in excess of 231 million percent.
The Zimbabwean says yesterday`s violence is the second time in less than five days that soldiers have attacked money-changers and taken their cash after being unable to get any at the banks.
The publication says the military and police have up to now been loyal to virtual dictator Robert Mugabe, adding that political analysts rule out the possibility of well-paid top generals staging a coup against Mugabe.
But they have always speculated that worsening hunger could at some point force the underpaid ordinary trooper to either openly revolt or to simply refuse to defend the government should Zimbabweans rise up in a civil rebellion.
Meanwhile, the United Nations health agency has called for US$2 million for a three-month assault on Zimbabwe`s worst cholera epidemic in over 15 years, saying they need the funding for emergency health supplies, water purification equipment, portable diagnostic kits and trained personnel.
The UN World Health Organization (WHO) says more than 11 700 cases had been recorded since August, 473 of them fatal, giving a fatality rate of 4%. That rate reached 50% in some areas during the early stages of the outbreak, compared with a benchmark rate of below 1%.
“Cholera outbreaks in Zimbabwe have occurred annually since 1998, but previous epidemics never reached today`s proportions,” WHO said in its latest update. “The last outbreak was in 1992 with 3000 cases recorded.”
WHO has been airlifting emergency stocks from the UN Humanitarian Resource Depot in Dubai and mobilizing additional drugs and supplies through the WHO country office in South Africa as well as deploying a full outbreak and investigation response team, including logisticians, epidemiologists, communications officers and specialists in water and sanitation.
Cholera, an acute intestinal infection caused by food or water contaminated with the bacterium vibrio cholerae, has a short incubation period from less than one to five days and causes copious, painless, watery diarrhoea that can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death if treatment is not promptly given.
The outbreak has also spread to SA and Botswana.