Zimbabwe Defense Forces Commander General Constantine Chiwenga, apparently responding to comments Sunday by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai saying the armed forces have become a major obstacle to democratic reform, told the state-controlled Herald newspaper that Mr. Tsvangirai should leave the military alone.
Dismissing Mr. Tsvangirai's charge that the army is meddling in politics, Chiwenga said the armed forces deserve respect for maintaining peace.
"As a professional defense force, we will not be drawn into debating our constitutional mandate lest we join the misguided elements of our society in barking at the image in the mirror and will therefore remain committed to fulfilling our role in the face of adversity," Chiwenga told the Herald, a mouthpiece for President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF.
"The ZDF deserves respect from all progressive Zimbabweans for their invaluable contribution to the liberation of Zimbabwe from colonial rule and for being the architects of the peace and stability that has continued to prevail in the country since independence," Chiwenga declared.
Addressing supporters Sunday in Kwekwe, Midlands province, Mr. Tsvangirai said the security forces are in need of reform as senior military and police officials have become advocates and proxies for the former ruling party in the political arena.
Neither Chiwenga nor a spokesperson for him could be reached for comment. Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa commented that security sector reform has become a "buzz-word" for Mr. Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change.
MDC spokesman Douglas Mwonzora said the party simply wants a military that will distance itself from politics and from the political violence with which it has been associated in elections since 2000.
Analyst Joy Mabenge of the Institute for a Democratic Alternative for Zimbabwe said reform of the national security sector reform is badly needed.