3,000 soldiers deployed in communities, says Mujuru

PEOPLE’S Rainbow Coalition (PRC) presidential candidate and former Vice-President, Joice Mujuru, has dared President Emmerson Mnangagwa, to come clean on a number of electoral-related concerns, amid allegations that government has deployed over 3 000 soldiers in civilian clothes to campaign for the ruling Zanu-PF in rural and urban areas ahead of this year’s general elections.

In a letter dated February 23 and addressed to Mnangagwa, Mujuru’s lawyers, Hamunakwadi and Nyandoro, said her coalition partners feared that the deployment of soldiers by Zanu-PF compromised the integrity of the upcoming polls.

“Zanu-PF political commissariat and government have deployed an estimated 3 000 military officials in civilian clothes into both urban and rural communities to campaign for Zanu-PF ahead of the election,” Mujuru said.

“These and other security personnel deployed in various institutions including the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) should be weeded out urgently.”

The PRC, which comprises Democratic Assembly for Restoration and Empowerment (Dare), Mujuru’s National People’s Party (NPP), and Zimbabweans United for Democracy (Zunde), is one the three opposition alliances contesting this year’s elections against Zanu-PF.

The other coalition – MDC Alliance, led by Nelson Chamisa – is made up of MDC-T, MDC, Multi-racial Christian Democrats, ZimPF, Zanu Ndonga, People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and Transform Zimbabwe.

Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe leader Elton Mangoma also leads another opposition coalition, Code, but comprising fringe political parties.

In her correspondence, Mujuru also challenged Mnangagwa to stop paying lip service to electoral reforms.

She argued that despite making several public pronouncements to reform the electoral roadmap, Mnangagwa had done nothing tangible to level the political playing field with less than six months before the polls.

“Our client is worried that despite your office’s pronouncements to that effect, there are no indications that since you assumed power, sufficient steps and programmes of engagement with all the necessary stakeholders has been done in order to ensure the promotion of a conducive environment for free, fair and credible elections,” the lawyers wrote.

Mujuru claimed that the State media remained captured by the ruling party to the detriment of the opposition.

She warned that failure to free media space, confine soldiers to the barracks and reform legislation to ensure compliance with the Constitution would result in disputed election results.

“Without the necessary and much-needed electoral reforms by Zimbabweans, hope for a free, fair and credible election is diminished on a daily basis,” she said.

“We call on the demilitarisation of the electoral process. All members of the security forces, in adherence to the Constitution, must first and foremost protect the Zimbabwean citizens despite their political affiliation.”

Contacted for comment yesterday, government and Zanu-PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo dismissed Mujuru’s claims as “hogwash”.

“That is nonsense, absolute hogwash. Why would we do that? We are the people’s party, we have support and strong structures that can campaign for us. The army has no business in elections. If she has deployed her army, then she can talk about that army because we have no knowledge about what she is talking about,” he said.

Moyo said the party’s political commissar, Retired Major-General Engelbert Rugeje, had no powers to commandeer soldiers to campaign for Zanu-PF.

“Rugeje is not part of the army. He retired and is, therefore, no longer part of the command element. He has no powers to deploy or command any section of the army,” he said.

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