Army chiefs in Zimbabwe are worried that disgruntled Zanu PF supporters, loyal to the deposed G40 faction, will vote for the opposition and have deployed soldiers to gather intelligence on the mood of villagers in mostly Mashonaland West, Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland East provinces.
Presenting a report titled ‘Zanu PF Military Deterrence of the Village Vote: Perceptions on the 2018 Election Environment’, Pedzisai Ruhanya who leads the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI) contradicted army spokesperson Overson Mugwisi who claimed the soldiers were on national duty.
“They are concentrated on areas where there are people fired from Zanu PF, the G40. They are in Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland West and Mashonaland Central,” Ruhanya said.
“That is where there is intensity because that is where Robert Mugabe, Joice Mujuru and Saviour Kasukuwere come from – the G40 kingpins; they are the most affected.”
“The protests in 2017 were in Harare and not in Mhondoro, so this idea that Mugabe was removed by the people is a lie. Zanu PF people did not remove Mugabe; he was removed by the army.
“The army was deployed to understand the changing dynamics in rural areas and the army agrees there is deployment, but we differ on the reasons for deployment. There is no physical violence but psychological warfare, people are reminded of Gukurahundi and June 2008.”
Ruhanya gave the example of Hurungwe constituency where he claimed villagers spoke of being followed by unknown people who would just park their vehicles at their houses or at places they frequented without saying anything to them.
According to the report, 67 percent of sampled respondents said at least five soldiers had been deployed in their communities while 100 percent of respondents in Mashonaland Central province said, at most, five soldiers had been spotted in their villages.
The survey revealed that the soldiers moved around carrying guns and other military equipment.
“The Zanu-PF government has innovatively increased military presence in villages, the intent being to have as much intimidated village voters as possible before the election date.”
According to Ruhanya, the ZDI study found that the military presence in the village has been mainly to harvest “fear induced voting preferences.”
“Opposition parties are recommended to begin lobbying regional and international players to assist in setting up security and safety assurances as they approach the election,” said Ruhanya.
Summary of key findings
PERCEPTION ON PRESENCE OF SOLDIERS IN VILLAGES
- 81% of the sampled respondents agreed that there are soldiers in villages while 19% dismissed the claims.
- Part of those agreeing on the presence of soldiers in villages are traditional leaders, community-based organisations leaders, politicians, liberation struggle war veterans, civil servants and ordinary villagers.
- Most of those who dismissed the claims are members of the ruling ZANU-PF party. EXTENT OF MILITARY PRESENCE PER VILLAGE/COMMUNITY 67% of the sampled respondents stated that at least five soldiers have been deployed in their communities. 11% of the respondents said at most five soldiers have been deployed in their communities while the remaining 22% did not comment.
PERCEPTION OF INTENSITY OF MILITARY PRESENCE IN COMMUNITIES/ BY PROVINCE
- 100% of the respondents sampled in Mashonaland Central province said more than five soldiers have been spotted in their villages.
- In other provinces the percentages of those who agreed that at least five soldiers have been deployed in their villages are as follows: Mashonaland East province 88%, Mashonaland West province 72%, Masvingo province 60%, Midlands province 50%, and Matabeleland North province 38%.
- The study, therefore, shows that military presence in villages is more intense in Mashonaland Central, East and West provinces as compared to the Midlands and Matabeleland North provinces.IDENTIFICATION OF SOLDIERS IN THE VILLAGE 42% of the respondents said the deployed soldiers move around wearing army uniforms. vii
The snap survey showed that soldiers also move around carrying guns and other military equipment. However, no cases of physical violence were recorded during this study.
Some soldiers move around in civilian clothes but easily identifiable as some of the soldiers come from the sampled areas.
PERCEIVED AGENDA OF SOLDIERS IN THE VILLAGE
- The survey reveals highest responses of villagers being that the soldiers are campaigning for the ruling ZANU-PF party.
- 38% of the sampled respondents said the soldiers are campaigning for President Emmerson Mnangagwa to be voted into office in the 30 July 2018 elections.
- 34% of the respondents said the soldiers are in the villages ostensibly to do government agricultural work (Command Agriculture program). Most of this 34%, however, said they believed the soldiers are actually working undercover, hiding behind the agricultural work cover.
- 7% comprising of mostly ZANU-PF supporters said the soldiers are maintaining peace and security in the villages while the rest declined to comment.FEELINGS ABOUT STATE OF PERSONAL SECURITY UNDER ‘MILITARIZED’ VILLAGES
- 46% of the sampled respondents said opposition political parties feel intimidated and deterred due to the militarization of the village while 45% stated that NGOs also feel intimidated and deterred for the same reason.
- The study shows that the soldiers work closely with war veterans and traditional leaders. However, most of the war veterans and the traditional leaders support the soldiers out of fear of being labelled ‘dissidents.’FEELINGS ABOUT VOTING FOR THE OPPOSITION WITH THE MILITARY IN VILLAGES
- 57% of the sampled respondents said they are afraid and feel insecure to vote for any opposition political party. They mentioned concerns about intimidation from top ZANU- PF officials.
- 31% of the respondents said they feel secure to vote for the opposition and do not feel threatened.PERCEPTIONS ON THE POSSIBILITY OF FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS ON 30 JULY 2018
- 48% of the respondents said election results will not be a true reflection of free choices of the people because of the military presence in the villages.
- 41% of the respondents said the upcoming election results will be a true reflection of free choices of the people.POSSIBLE IMPACTS OF MILITARY PRESENCE IN VILLAGES ON VOTER APATHY
- 76% of the respondents said they will go and vote on the polling day knowing that there are soldiers in the village. Of this 76%, however, almost half mentioned that citizens’ voting would not be out of free will but out of fear.
- 10% of the respondents said they will not go and vote as their votes will make no difference.