Ladies and gentlemen, I have invited you to Defence House, for a press conference on the role of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) in the forthcoming harmonised elections all in an effort to inform your future reporting. Let Me begin by giving you a short brief on our role in the elections before I raise a few issues on responsible media coverage. To begin with, members of the public should be made aware that the Zimbabwe Defence Forces has no direct role in the upcoming harmonized elections.
Our role in the elections is mainly to support the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) in their role of the Maintenance of law and order in the country before, during and after the harmonized elections. We also remain ready to assist the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) with transport where necessary.
Beyond that, the ZDF remains ready to defend our country’s territorial integrity and interests. Having said that, I want to raise concern over some individuals who mischievously and deliberately portray the execution of our mandate as participating in political campaigns. Falsehoods that have been reported include allegations of ZDF deployments in rural areas to intimidate villagers so that they support a certain political party to enhance that party’s chances of winning in the 2018 harmonised elections.
We urge people who are not sure or doubt the genuine role being played by the ZDF in this election to feel free to check with t. and clear their suspicions. If Participating in the ongoing political campaigns they will be doing so illegally and not as a result of an instruction from their commanders. Those with information on such misconduct should provide us with full details of such individuals to enable appropriate disciplinary action to be taken against them.
They can also report the suspicious characters to the nearest police station. You may want to know that the deployments we have include troops on various Command projects, border control operations in support of the ZRP and in some National Parks in support of the Parks Rangers. We also have deployments on humanitarian demining activities along our country’s border with Mozambique and have artisans working on construction of community assistance projects including public utilities such as schools, hospitals and clinics as part of our ongoing corporate social responsibility programme. ZDF members at political rallies attended by VIPs and VVIPs should not be misconstrued to be participating in political activities as these are some of our official duties.
We also have other pressing prior commitments for our members which are keeping them away from their barracks or homes where they are registered to vote next month. Arrangements have been made for the members to vote through the postal ballot to avoid violating their voting rights on account of exigencies of military commitments. Members who will be afforded the postal ballot include troops on training commitments at the All Arms Battle School in Nyanga, Regular Officer Cadets training at the Zimbabwe Military Academy in Gweru, members proceeding to the Russian Military Games and some who are deployed on border control operations.
In this regard, we are disturbed by false reports already circulating on the social media alleging that the ZDF is going to be used by ZANU PF to rig the elections through the postal ballot. These malicious social media reports should be dismissed with the contempt they deserve. As we remain committed to fulfilling our Constitutional mandate, We implore members of the media to report objectively and responsibly.
The media is also expected to desist from peddling falsehoods, which are destructive as they tend to cause disunity in the country. Our wish is to work with a responsible media that promotes national unity, stability, and respect for individual rights as enshrined in our Constitution, social and economic development in the country. Furthermore, it should be noted that members of the ZDF like any other citizens are not barred from exercising their right to vote for any political party of their choice in national elections.
The only restriction on their participation in politics is holding of political Party offices while they are still serving. As for retired members, they are not excluded from active participation in national politics. According to Chapter 4, Part 2, Section 67 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, members of the ZDF like other citizens, have democratic rights to participate in national elections. Chapter 6, Part 4, Section 125 of the Constitution does not exempt any category of citizens including retired ZDF members from participating in political activities and holding such offices.
The ZDF gets is concerned when media reports carry inaccurate reports or falsehoods when my office is readily available to provide correct information anytime it is required by members of the media. There is therefore no need for any excuses to the effect that, “by the time of going to print, the Defence Spokesman could not be reached for comment.” We are always there for you.
I also want to give a few examples of some bad if not mischievous reporting by some of you.
a. On 10 June 2018, the Standard Newspaper reported that 5 000 soldiers were deployed especially in rural areas to campaign for ZANU PF. The alleged deployments never happened.
b. On 14 June 2018, an online media report by Siphosami Malunga alleged that Zimbabwe’s military has a record of interfering in elections in favour of the ruling party and that 2 000 soldiers had been deployed in rural areas. This so called deployment never happened.
c. Another online media report by Snodia Mawupeni insinuated that military men participated in ZANU PF primary elections on 03 April 2018. This is very untrue.
d. In the News Day published on 28 March 2018, Richard Chidza cited the European Union and opposition leaders accusing the Army of lacking neutrality in elections and that the military had deployed personnel in rural areas respectively. This is another false allegation.