Military: We won’t interfere in election, will uphold Constitution

The Zimbabwe military will not interfere in political campaigns and its response to the outcome of the election will be guided by the Constitution, a spokesman for the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) has said.

The ZDF has also not deployed its members to campaign for ZanuPF as charged by the opposition, ZDF spokesman Colonel Overson Mugwisi told reporters at a press conference at Defence House earlier on Wednesday.

The ZDF has in the past being accused of backing the ruling ZanuPF party. Mugwisi said the military would only limit its role in the election to supporting the police in the maintenance of law and order. The ZDF would also provide logistical support to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission if required.

“We abide by the Constitution of the country, and all we are going to do will be guided by the Constitution of the country,” Mugwisi said.

Pressed by journalists to declare that the military would salute main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa should he win, Mugwisi insisted that the Constitution would be the “guide” for the military.

The MDC Alliance has called for the military to publicly declare that it would back the winner of the July 30 election. Opposition fears of military interference date back to 2002, when, ahead of a Presidential election that year, the military declared it would not support any candidate that did not subscribe to the values of the liberation struggle.

Those remarks were seen as an endorsement of former President Robert Mugabe and a declaration that they would not recognise a win by then opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

On Wednesday, Mugwisi denied allegations by the opposition that the ZDF had deployed military personnel to rural areas to intimidate voters. The MDC Alliance says over 5000 members of the military have been sent out into the countryside to campaign for ZanuPF.

“Falsehoods that have been reported include allegations of ZDF deployments in rural areas to intimidate villagers so that they support a certain political party to enhance that party’s chances of winning in the 2018 harmonised elections,” Mugwisi said.

He said no such deployments had been made, beyond existing ZDF programs.
Mugwisi also said no serving members of the military can participate in party campaigns, saying if any were doing so, they would be breaking the law and would not be doing so at the instruction of their commanders. ZDF members, he said, however have rights to vote.

“It should be noted that members of the ZDF like any other citizens are not barred from exercising their right to vote for any political party of their choice in national elections. The only restriction on their participation in politics is in holding of political office while they are serving,” Mugwisi said.

Mugwisi’s remarks that the ZDF will stick to the Constitution are unlikely to go far enough in meeting the demands of the opposition, who want the military to directly declare that they would salute Chamisa should he win. ZDF’s offer of logistical support to ZEC has also already been rejected by the opposition, which sees the military as partisan.

“The police do not need any help from the military,” senior MDC Alliance figure David Coltart tweeted in response Wednesday. “The military should be confined to barracks until after the election.”