Zimbabweans on social media were quick to expose government lies after the state denounced video footage aired by Sky News on police and army brutality that characterised the recent strikes.
Led by journalist John Sparks, Sky travelled to the country’s two major cities, Bulawayo and Harare, where most of the destruction, violence and looting took place.
A video showing a man in civilian attire being beaten up by police and army officers after he allegedly complained about tight handcuffs has put the state under pressure.
The presidency said it was “appalled” by the video, which President Emmerson Mnangagwa said was “not the Zimbabwean way
“. He called for a full investigation into the matter.
Zimbabwe’s president said he was “appalled” after seeing reports by Sky News of civilians being beaten by soldiers and police.
But this Zimbabwean lawyer has accused the leader of “fake outrage”.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) January 29, 2019
However, the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), through its spokesperson Charity Charamba, dismissed the video as from the Robert Mugabe era in 2016.
“The video that was broadcast on Sky News was an incident that occurred in June 2016 during an operation to clean up touts,” said Charamba.
However, Twitter users highlighted elements of the footage that were post-2016.
To start with, they pointed at that there was a Mercedes-Benz C Class that drove past. Its registration plate “AES” was only dispatched in 2018.
Chiremba Road, next to Park Meadowlands in Harare where the beating occurred, was only re-surfaced last year, it was pointed out. In 2016 it was one of Harare’s most pothole-riddled roads.
One of the police officers beating up the handcuffed man is shown wearing a 2017/18 season Chelsea replica jersey.
Because of this, ZRP was forced to retract its earlier statement and issue a new narrative.
In a press statement, the police conceded that the video was taken on Saturday, January 26 2019, and this time claimed that the abusers were rogue state security officers.
“Constable Makumire is seen in the video clad in civilian attire with a satchel strapped on his back assaulting the victim. The member was not on official duty during the time of the offence as he is on suspension,” the police said, adding that there was an ongoing investigation to nab the other security men seen in the footage.
There have been widespread arrests and crackdowns on civilians suspected to be linked to the chaotic stayaway a fortnight ago. It has since been confirmed by the police that some children were arrested as part of the crackdown, particularly in Harare.
“Some children were arrested during the recent civil arrest and so far we are aware that 14 were arrested in Braeside (in Harare) and 22 in Chitungwiza,” Charamba said.