The Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) has described as malicious and baseless press reports that it will rig the country’s forthcoming general elections in favour or the ruling Zanu PF party.
Addressing journalists in Harare today, ZDF spokesperson Everson Mugwisi said they have no capacity to rig the elections through the postal ballot system.
“These social media reports should be dismissed with the contempt they deserve. As we remain to be committed in 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.
“… Furthermore, it should be noted that members of the ZDF like any other citizens are not barred from their right of exercising the right to vote for any political party of their choice in national elections. The only restriction on their participation in politics is holding on any political party offices (positions) while they are still serving.”
He noted that retired members of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces are free to join any party or form their own political entities.
“According to Chapter, Part II, Section 67 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe members of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces like other citizens have democratic rights to participate in national elections. Chapter 6, Part IV, 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.”
He also dismissed as untrue reports that the ZDF recently deployed 5,000 soldiers in rural areas to campaign for the ruling party.
He said it is illegal for the army to address election campaign rallies. “If some serving members are participating in the ongoing political campaigns they will be doing so illegally and not as a result from an instruction from their commanders.”
Colonel Mugwisi said members of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces have been deployed to help the police and protect key state institutions as prescribed in the Zimbabwe Constitution and Defence Act.
“You may want to know that the deployment we have includes troops on various command projects, voter control operations in support of the Zimbabwe Republic Police and in some national parks in support for the parks rangers. We also have deployments on the humanitarian demining activities along our country’s border with Mozambique with artisans working on community assistance projects including public utilities such as schools, hospitals and clinics as part of our ongoing corporate social responsibility program.
“ZDF members at political rallies attended by VIPs of 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.”
The ZDF’s reaction follows accusations by some Zimbabweans, including political parties and civil society groups, of alleged intimidation of voters ahead of the July 30 elections.
The ZDF seized key state institutions last November in a defacto coup, which resulted in the removal of then president Robert Mugabe from office.