THE army has admitted that it has deployed soldiers on the ground but has denied that the deployments are part of a wider plan to intimidate people into voting for President Robert Mugabe in the second round of the presidential poll.
Mugabe faces MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai in a run-off that should be after July 31.
Reports from various parts of the country have suggested that army personnel have been deployed to ensure that voters are intimidated into voting for the 84-year-old Zanu PF candidate seeking to turn the tables on his bitter rival, Tsvangirai.
In response to questions fielded by the Zimbabwe Independent last week, ZNA spokesperson, Major Alphios Makotore said that the high visibility of army personnel on the ground should not be “misconstrued as a commitment to political violence” on the part of the defence forces.
He said the deployment of soldiers was part of the ZNA’s operational commitments that are in pursuit of community assistance programmes by the army.
“These operational commitments, as cited above, naturally result in increased visibility of soldiers and officers in the communities they will be operating in.
“…This presence of troops in persuit of community assistance should never be misconstrued as commitment to political activities,” said Makotore. “As clearly spelt out in the Defence Act, the ZNA is an apolitical army which should never be used to further political aspirations of any individual political party.”
He cited Operation Maguta/ Inala, Garikayi/ Hlalani Kuhle, Outreach Malaria Control and Cholera Campaign, and disaster relief programmes to the Muzarabani community as some of the projects undertaken by the army as part of its community service programme.
Responding to reports that the army was on high alert, he said the ZNA was in a position of readiness for any eventuality that might arise in cases of an escalation of violence beyond civilian control.
“As regard to the state of readiness of the army, we would like to reiterate that the army has the onerous responsibility of ensuring security and safety of Zimbabwe and its citizens. At any given time, the army has to observe certain states of readiness which makes it operationally possible to carry out duties efficiently without any compromises to national sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence,” he said.
Since the announcement of the March 29 general election results, reports from the MDC suggest that state security agents and Zanu PF militia have killed 32 of the party’s supporters, while thousands of families have been displaced countryside.
By Nkululeko Sibanda