Villagers vandalise Border Gezi camp

The NYS graduates, pejoratively known as ''Green Bombers'' because of their green uniform colour scheme, were a feared militia associated with the ruling Zanu PF party.

ANGRY villagers in Gwanda, Matabeleland South capital vandalised the old national youth service training camp in Guyu after the programme was disbanded around 2007 due to funding challenges.

Government plans to revive the camps with graduates set to begin training on June 1.

In Guyu, the programme evokes horrible memories for the villagers who endured torture and harassment at the hands of the school’s graduates, Sunday Southern Eye established.

Previously known as the National Youth Service (NYS), the programme has been rebranded as YSZ.

The NYS graduates, pejoratively known as ''Green Bombers'' because of their green uniform colour scheme, were a feared militia associated with the ruling Zanu PF party.

They were introduced in the early 2000s to lead terror attacks against the then young opposition MDC that threatened to snatch power from Zanu PF.

In Gwanda, they were trained at the Guyu facility.

A visit to the area on Tuesday established that villagers were yet to find healing from the torture and harassment at the hands of the “Green Bombers”.

The villagers said  the recruits would regularly break into their homes and fields to steal. They also sexually abused and impregnated local girls as well as harass the local community over suspected opposition party links.

“We used to call the place amaPara,” said one war veteran by the name Leya.

“I heard about this issue (that Green Bombers are being brought back) on the bus yesterday (Monday) when I was coming from Bulawayo.

“The people discussing it were not happy at all and they were saying “para military” is coming back.”

 A man from Sezubane village, said locals were happy when the programme was discontinued.

“When the para was disbanded people were happy,” he said. “We didn’t see  anything good that they did in the community. They were known for harassing people.

“We were beaten by those trainees and even in the beer hall, people were scared to go there because it was like they owned the place.”

Another villager said they feared the return of the militias.

“We are scared of it coming back because it will bring back violence,” he said. “Para stayed here and at the end, they were up in arms with the people.

“They had their shenanigans, they had a lot of bad traits here.

“During the weekends, they would come to the village and start vandalising our fields, taking firewood, and beating us up.

“Then we didn’t have any place to report them, we were scared.”

Another villager said angry community members vandalised the camp after it was disbanded.

“Their “ponds” were vandalised by the community,” he said.

“If they come back, we want them to focus on what they come for, not to poke their nose in the community.”

A Zanu PF member, Kgotso Nare, however, welcomed the relaunch of the programme.

“I recall the paramilitary next to the Guyu police camp, some of our children trained there,” Nare said.

“We have youth here who don’t even know what to do, they spend the day loitering, but then this thing will at least ensure that they are not idle and end up committing crimes and taking drugs.”

Zanu PF Gwanda South Member of Parliament, Omphile Marupi, said the national youth service was a noble idea.

“We are yet to visit the once training centre as a community and leadership for our input since we were looking forward to the Vocational Training Centre being upgraded to a Polytechnic noting that we are starved of these learning institutions in the region,” Marupi said.

“As you are aware, currently Guyu Vocational is incapacitated and offers far less than the anticipated courses.”

The programme is said to cover three months of institutionalised training and three months of community attachment.

About 10 000 youths, drawn from all the country's provinces, are earmarked to undergo training this year alone.

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