Johannesburg - Zimbabwean army officials have been advised not to appear in uniform in public for fear of further retribution from angry civilians after a number of attacks on security force members, including a policeman being stoned to death by members of the public.
An internal memorandum was circulated on Friday instructing service men not to wear their uniforms outside their barracks, the Zimbabwean reported on Tuesday.
"The Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) has directed that with immediate effect no military uniform will be worn outside cantonment areas. This applies to members commuting to and from places of work, intra-and intercity commuting," read the memorandum.
"Take note that after working hours, members are to put on civilian clothes and leave their uniforms in cantonment areas. Some members have been attacked by hostile civilians whilst in uniform," the memorandum read.
Reports of uniformed officials being targeted by the public continue to come in. One of the more serious incidents involved a policeman, constable Alexio Maune, 32, being attacked and stoned to death by rioters.
Soldiers have been patrolling the streets, concentrating on major areas of the capital Harare, ever since the January protests over rocketing petrol prices turned violent. Over 50 people have been killed in clashes with security forces following a crackdown on protesters in Bulawayo and Harare.
But the army said in a statement it only intervened after police were unable to deal with the escalating situation on the ground.
"During the unrest in the country that occurred from January 14 to 16, the protesters targeted police stations and members of that force on whom they vented their anger. This resulted in the police calling for assistance from the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) to quell the rowdy elements in the streets," read the statement.
ZDF inspector general Major-General Douglas Nyikayaramba stated last week that had the armed forces not intervened the country would have been looted. -Nampa /ANA