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'Zimbabwe Army Should Go Back to Barracks Before Any Political Talks'

FILE: An injured man is helped at a private hospital after an alleged assault by a group of uniformed soldiers in Harare, Zimbabwe, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019.

A Zimbabwean, who participated in the 2018 presidential election, says he will be attending a meeting organized by President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Wednesday to draw terms for a national dialogue following a crackdown on opposition leaders and their supporters and other people that took part in the recent public protests over the high cost of living in the country.

Noah Manyika of Build Zimbabwe Alliance told VOA Zimbabwe Service that there is need for the withdrawal of soldiers from the streets and release of hundreds of people who were detained following the public protests last month, which resulted in the death of at least 12 people and hundreds injured and maimed.

“My position has always been very clear about what needs to happen before we have substantive discussions and this is in the president’s power to do. The army needs to be withdrawn from the streets. The army needs to be removed from playing any law enforcement role in this country because that is unconstitutional and it also creates a situation of fear. The people who were detained need to be released.”

Indications are that Professor Lovemore Madhuku of the National Constitutional Party will attend the meeting while there was no official comment from presidential spokesperson Nkululeko Sibanda of the Movement for Democratic Change led by Nelson Chamisa.

A senior party official said Mnangagwa has not officially invited the party to attend the meeting though another official noted that they may table the issue at a planned top party conference on Wednesday.

“It’s all hearsay. We have not yet been officially invited by Mnangagwa. Even if that is the case, our position is clear on Mnangagwa … The issue of legitimacy still remains a big stumbling block to any talks. Apart from that we have hundreds of our members that have been brutalized by the army and some have even fled Zimbabwe. So, how do we hold talks under these circumstances?”

The Zimbabwe National Army allegedly launched a crackdown on protesters together with other state security agents following street protests in most urban areas a few day after Mnangagwa announced fuel price increases of up to 150%.

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