Source: Bulawayo 24 News
Scores of women from Harare's Hopley area alleged they were raped by soldiers during the ongoing crackdown against opposition activists linked to last week's protests against fuel price hikes which turned violent, resulting in the killing of 12 people by security forces.

In separate interviews from their Harare hideout, the women gave horrifying experiences at the hands of suspected soldiers.

This comes at a time when the military and the police have warned of rogue elements that were carrying out acts of terror in the name of the security forces.

"On January 17, soldiers were patrolling in our area. They usually come and they are familiar with people in the area," one of the victims said.

"On that particular day during the night, I arrived home late and saw some soldiers near my house and they were in the maize field. They asked for certain people, but to my surprise, those were my children and sensing danger, I said they were not home."

She said one the soldiers called her from a distance and she complied.

"He said I should do everything that he wants and he said he wanted to sleep with me. I didn't refuse because I wanted to save my children. I, however, told him that I am HIV positive, but he said it didn't matter so I complied."

Another survivor, who confessed that she was a commercial sex worker, said she and a friend were coming from her night patrols at some drinking spot in Southlea Park when they met a group of soldiers.

She said the soldiers accused them of hiding riotous people and criminals at their houses.

The woman said they were ordered to lie on the ground and to their surprise, two soldiers took turns to rape them.

She said they were traumatised by what happened, but out of fear, they had to comply.

They implored the government to look into the matter and bring to book the perpetrators.

The Women's Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (Walpe) condemned the rape and torture of women across the country between January 14 and 16 during the national shutdown.

"iTV news, an international credible news agency, released a hear-rending video of women narrating horror stories of how they were tortured, raped and psychologically tormented at the hands of soldiers," Walpe said.

"Men and children were not spared of the violence that saw 12 people being shot dead by the army."

The organisation demanded the arrest of soldiers and all security officers who committed torture, rape, murder, assault and robbery.

"Walpe further appeals to more women who were sexually assaulted during this period to come out and seek treatment, as most of them were subjected to unprotected sex, thus exposing them to sexually transmitted diseases," Walpe said in a statement.

MDC spokesperson Jacob Mafume said such matters must not be swept under the carpet.

"The call, which has been made to investigate the conduct of security forces, must be done urgently. It also must be done in line with the recommendations of the Motlanthe Commission," he said.

Human Rights Watch Southern Africa director Dewa Mavhinga said Zimbabwe had a vicious cycle of violence that needed to be broken.

"Zimbabwe has repetitive vicious cycles of violence because the government fails to ensure justice and accountability, and to punish those who commit abuses in the name of the State. The authorities must immediately investigate all reports of abuses and make sure no abuse goes unpunished," he said.

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