HARARE – Opposition leader Ambrose Mutinhiri has told an election observer team from the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) that regional bodies should deploy military personnel to observe the forthcoming elections alleging over 5 000 soldiers have been deployed to rural areas.
Mutinhiri, who leads the National Patriotic Front (NPF) and is a former brigadier general, claims that while 2 000 soldiers were deployed before the start of Operation Restore Legacy which ousted former president Robert Mugabe, the number has since ballooned to 5 000.
“The army confirms that by 15 November 2017, it had put over 2 000 of its officers and embedded them in every community in Zimbabwe not just for the coup but for the forthcoming elections.
This number is now over 5 000.
“Zimbabwe cannot hold free, fair and credible elections with over 5 000 army officers embedded in every village and street communities across the country,” Mutinhiri said in his communiqué seen by the Daily News on Sunday to the visiting Sadc head of delegation, Leshele Thohlane.
The Daily News on Sunday sent questions to army spokesperson Overson Mugwisi on the alleged deployment, an allegation first made by the mainstream MDC, but there has been no response.
Mutinhiri, just like Mugabe, said Sadc — which is accused by some of turning a blind eye on the “unconstitutional” removal of the former Zanu PF leader from office- should now redeem itself by ensuring “that there are army officers to monitor the elections at every polling station, every collation centre and every command centre across the country.”
“If this is not done, the election will be stolen,” Mutinhiri warned the seven-member Sadc Electoral Advisory Council.
In his presentation on the electoral environment in Zimbabwe, Mutinhiri also said action should be taken against senior civil servants, including President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba and chief secretary to the president Misheck Sibanda, for allegedly working in cahoots with the military to remove Mugabe last November.
“It is of grave concern that key heads of civilian institutions that have major responsibilities to do with the administration of elections were part and parcel of the illegal military coup and these are…Sibanda…who failed to uphold his loyalty to…Mugabe and joined the coup makers against clear provisions of the Constitution…has remained in his position and has a lot to do with the administration of the election process. He cannot remain in that position if Zimbabwe is to have free, fair and credible elections…(permanent secretary in the ministry of Foreign Affairs) Joey Bimha. He was clearly part of the coup and used his position to mobilise Zimbabwe’s embassies to support the coup.
“Election observers are decided by his ministry and has already shown his hand in advancing the cause of the coup against the Constitution of Zimbabwe. He cannot remain in that position if Zimbabwe is to hold free, fair and credible elections.
“…Charamba, he was the secretary of the coup and has remained its voice. His responsibilities are to administer State information in the country. Information is the glue of free, fair and credible elections. Zimbabwe cannot hold free, fair and credible elections if State information is administered by the secretary of the coup. That is just impossible,” alleged Mutinnhiri.
Mugabe, who has reportedly endorsed Mutinhiri’s new political party, told reporters last week that he was “illegally” removed from power and seemingly blamed Sadc and the African Union for turning a blind eye to the soft coup.
While Mugabe distanced himself from NPF, his former allies who are currently exiled could be part of the opposition party, according to Mutinhiri, who hinted in the letter to Sadc that some of the fledgling political party members are still exiled and cannot freely express themselves in Zimbabwe.
“NPF’s wish would have been to bring before your Council, some of its founding members who have served in various public responsibilities and who have firsthand experience and knowledge why elections in Zimbabwe cannot be free, fair and credible under current military conditions that are worse than those witnessed in 2008.
“It is unfortunate that the NPF members with this experience and knowledge cannot appear before you in Zimbabwe because of the threatening and very dangerous situation arising from the 15 November 2017 military coup.
“NPF would be pleased if your esteemed Council takes this matter seriously and enables the NPF members in question to make their oral presentations on what they know outside Zimbabwe where their safety and security would be guaranteed,” said Mutinhiri.