Zimbabwe situation 'normal' despite looting, say security forces

Zimbabwe's security forces have reported incidents of looting and illegal occupation of farms and houses following the resignation of Robert Mugabe and the inauguration of his successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa.

However, the military and police said in a joint statement that the "situation in our country has returned to normalcy" after a crisis during which the military staged a takeover and crowds demonstrated against Mugabe at the end of his 37-year rule.

Police, largely absent from the streets of Harare during the tumultuous leadership transition, will assume its role "as stipulated in the constitution" and conduct joint patrols with the military, including in the capital's central business district, the statement said.

Many Zimbabweans applauded the military for its role in Mugabe's resignation on November 21, but resent the police for alleged corruption.

At Mr Mnangagwa's inauguration as president on Friday, military commander General Constantino Chiwenga drew cheers from tens of thousands of spectators in a sports stadium, while the police commissioner, General Augustine Chihuri, was booed.

Mr Mnangagwa, once a close confidant of Mugabe whose November 6 dismissal as vice president led to Zimbabwe's momentous leadership change, has urged people not to settle old scores as a new government seeks to rebuild the economically struggling country.

However, the statement from the security forces said there were some problems.

"Law enforcement agents are already receiving reports of looting and illegal occupation of other people's properties, particularly farms and houses," it said.

The statement described such actions as criminal and against the spirit of reconciliation that the new government seeks to build, saying they "will be met by the full wrath of the law".

Colonel Overson Mugwisi and Charity Charamba.

Land is a contentious issue in Zimbabwe, where Mugabe's government, starting around 2000, initiated land seizures and evictions of farmers from Zimbabwe's white minority, which relinquished power in 1980 after a guerrilla war by black nationalists.

Mugabe said the often-violent reform programme was meant to redistribute resources to poor blacks, but many prime farms instead ended up in the hands of ruling Zanu-PF party leaders, party loyalists, security chiefs, relatives and cronies.

More recently, the situation was further complicated by rifts within the ruling party that led to the military intervention and the victory of Mr Mnangagwa over a faction linked to Mugabe's wife Grace, who previously had presidential ambitions.

AP


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