OPPOSITION MDC-T leader Nelson Chamisa, has challenged the military to stay out of this year’s electoral processes and allow democracy to flourish.
Chamisa, who was answering questions at the Oxford Union in the UK on Monday, said his party was extremely concerned by reports that soldiers were taking an active role in Zanu PF politics ahead of this year’s harmonised elections.
Although the military played a pivotal role in the removal of former President Robert Mugabe in November last year, Chamisa said memories of the 2008 election violence were still fresh in the electorate’s minds.
“We are concerned, but not worried in the sense that we have a way to go round it and this is why we have insisted that we have an irrevocable declaration by the military that they will respect the will of the people,” Chamisa said.
“Once the people have voted, let the will of the people be respected, the ballot must be protected by the bullet and not to be undermined by it, but what we are seeing in Zimbabwe is that the bullet seeks to replace the ballot when in fact the whole essence of going to the liberation struggle is for the bullet to preserve the ballot.”
In 2008, a number of MDC-T supporters lost their lives while others were tortured when Zanu PF sought to reclaim victory in the runoff election.
“We are extremely concerned that the military, of course it played a critical role in the politics of our country in the context of November and also in the context of what is happening now in terms of elections.
“In 2008 you are aware that there was violence but the military played a pivotal role. Under normal circumstances, we do not want to see the military in villages or the villages militarized. So we need to demilitarise the villages and de-villagise the military and make sure that we do not have our soldiers out of the barracks, in the villages,” he said.
Chamisa said the opposition was however fortified by the fact that there were also soldiers who were professional and respected the will of the people and the electorate.
He also spoke about the need to have people living in the Diaspora to participate in the elections and the need to restore trust and build confidence in the economy.
Chamisa also described the forthcoming polls as the most crucial since the 1980 elections when Zimbabwe attained its independence from Britain.
“This is an election to move from the liberation promise to the transformation promise. This is an election to see young people playing a role to fulfil their historical and revolutionary mandate to transform Zimbabwe into a modern State,” he said.
“We want to see accountability in terms of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, which is supposed to be independent, but is not entirely independent. We want to see put in place the auditing of the ballot paper, a source of contestation in the past, and the auditing of the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) system.”
Beginning this year, Zimbabwe will use BVR in place of its much-contested electoral voters’ roll administered by the Registrar-General’s Office.
Chamisa also called for an international observer network comprising African countries as well as those from the rest of the world “to support the initiative for a free and fair election”.
On whether there was sufficient time to see through the needed reforms, Chamisa said: “Is three months enough? It’s not a question of time, but of political will and what we’ve seen is that there’s no political will on the part of President Emmerson Mnangagwa”.