‘Probe deployment of soldiers to rural areas’

By Mugove Tafirenyika

MDC president Nelson Chamisa yesterday challenged the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to investigate the alleged deployment of soldiers to rural areas ahead of elections.

File picture of Zimbabwean soldiers patrolling the streets of Glen View in Harare
File picture of Zimbabwean soldiers patrolling the streets of Glen View in Harare

This comes after a former army brigadier, Ambrose Mutinhiri, who quit Zanu PF last month  to protest the removal of former president Robert Mugabe, claimed that at least 5 000 soldiers have been deployed to rural areas ahead of elections in July.

The army has refused to comment on the allegations.

Addressing journalists at the party headquarters, Morgan Richard Tsvangirai House  in the capital, the MDC Alliance presidential candidate said both his party and  the ruling Zanu PF supporters were reporting that members of the military were demanding voter registration slip serial numbers.

“I can confirm to you that we are receiving reports of people who are probably masquerading as the army and most of them are under what are called champion farmers while some are called commissars,” Chamisa told reporters.

He also alleged that others were intimidating villagers masquerading as Agritex officers in various wards countrywide.

“We are in the process of compiling the list of names of the individuals, they are stationed in the villages. Some are under the auspices of Agritex officers and they are across the over 1 958 wards in the country.

“It is incumbent upon the Zec to ensure they deal with the issue of the so-called ‘boys on leave’. We need to establish why they are in the villages and now they are coordinating serial numbers and marshalling traditional leaders into that process which is a violation of the Constitution and it’s a big issue.

“They are telling people that they are going to repeat what they did in 2008 and we all know what happened.”

There was a brutal response to former president Mugabe and the ruling Zanu PF’s loss in general elections in March 2008 that saw the ruling party launching a campaign of violence against MDC activists and supporters, mobilising a system of repression and violent intimidation marked by widespread abuses, including killings, torture, beatings, looting, and burning of property. 

At least 200 people were killed and some 5 000 were tortured or beaten, with tens of thousands more displaced by the violence, which eventually forced the winner of the first round of polls Morgan Tsvangirai, now late, to withdraw from the poll, leaving Mugabe to declare himself the winner of the one-man contest. 

Chamisa urged Zec to take immediate steps to prevent a repeat of 2008 political violence in mid-year elections.

“They are telling traditional leaders that if Chamisa wins  they are all going to be dismissed. There is now polling station-based intimidation, it has been localised because we are doing polling station-based voting,” Chamisa told the news conference.

“What is surprising is that Mnangagwa has not said anything about the abuse yet he is aware of it. We have brought it to his attention but he has not responded and this is what worries us  because he is a lawyer himself but he has not uttered a word. What he has only told us is that Zimbabwe is open for business. Why is his government open for business when it is not open to political accountability?”

Mnangagwa has said Zimbabweans must brace for free, fair and credible elections.

But Chamisa, who has written to Mnangagwa seeking a meeting with him to discuss these and other electoral issues, said his nemesis was not sincere. He said if Mnangagwa does not accept the MDC’s demands for comprehensive electoral reforms, then there won’t be an election.

“We will not boycott the election but will not accept this Zanu PF tomfoolery. Make no mistake about it; we will not accept a movie of an election. We are prepared to surrender ourselves first before we surrender our rights,” he declared.

Chamisa added: “We requested a meeting with him and we got a response to acknowledge receipt of the letter but no date has been set. Maybe he is too busy for us but time is not on his side because very soon we will also be too busy for him.”

Meanwhile, Chamisa said his party will be heading to Bulawayo at the weekend to drum up support for his party.

Pressed to say whether the rebellion launched against him by former MDC vice president Thokozani Khupe will not affect his campaign, Chamisa said the former Makokoba MP’s resistance was inconsequential.

“That she masquerades as MDC-T does not bother us because we are dealing with that so that she stops masquerading. Don’t worry about her, this is not the first time this has happened.”

The polls, which will be held in three months’ time, will  be Chamisa’s first  test  at the national level after he took over as MDC leader following the death of Morgan Tsvangirai in March. Daily News

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