MDC leader Nelson Chamisa has appealed to the military — which played a key role in the ouster of former president Robert Mugabe last November — to withdraw from villages in order to ensure free and credible elections.
This comes amid reports that the army has deployed over 2 000 soldiers into rural areas to allegedly intimidate villagers into voting for Zanu PF in the looming harmonised elections.
And according to former government minister retired army general Ambrose Mutinhiri, who quit the ruling party early this year citing the “unconstitutional removal of Mugabe”, the number has since risen to 5 000.
“The army confirms that by November 15, 2017, it had put over 2 000 of its officers and embedded them in every community in Zimbabwe not just for the coup but for the forthcoming elections. This number is now over 5 000. Zimbabwe cannot hold free, fair and credible elections with over 5 000 army officers embedded in every village and street communities across the country” Mutinhiri has said.
In reaction to that, in an interview with South African ANN7, Chamisa said for now the MDC will not start campaigning to minimise the possibility of violence, while he made a passionate plea for soldiers to leave the villages.
“Our military were very active and have been very active in the politics of this country. We want to devillagise the military and demilitarise the village, making sure that the military are liberated from partisan politics because they are bigger than partisan politics,” he said.
“They have to represent the nation, they are for all of us and they cannot be supporting one party against the other. Zanu PF is just one party, it is not the nation and it is not the liberation struggle. So, we would like to make sure the military is in the barracks defending the nation and not defending one political party, because the whole essence of going to the liberation struggle was to ensure that we protect the ballot and not for the bullet to undermine the ballot,” said Chamisa.
Although a renewed Zanu PF under President Emmerson Mnangagwa has promised free and fair elections, sceptics are not convinced and have been demanding that government walks the talk, instead of paying lip-service to electoral reforms.
Previous elections have been blighted by scourges of violence.