A new study has revealed that there are members of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) who have been deployed in the rural communities ahead of the July 30 harmonised elections, despite government`s denial that it dispatched military personnel to intimidate voters.
According to research titled, “Zanu PF/Military Deterence of the Village Vote: Perceptions of the 2018 Election Environment”, which was produced by the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute in partnership with the Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa (OSISA), claims that there is military presence in rural communities.
The research was done from April to July 2018 in Mutare, Gweru and Masvingo with 154 people interviewed through 64 interviews.
According to the report, most of the respondents confirmed the presence of military personnel in their area.
“81% of the sampled respondents agreed that there are soldiers in villages while 19% dismissed the claims. Part of those agreeing on the presence of soldiers in villages are traditional leaders, community-based organisations leaders, politicians, liberation struggle war veterans, civil servants and ordinary villagers,” according to the findings.
“Most of those who dismissed the claims are members of the ruling ZANU-PF party”.
This is despite spirited denial by the ZDF that it dispatched its members to the rural communities to intimidate voters ahead of the crucial polls.
“I want to raise concern over some individuals who mischievously and deliberately portray the execution of our mandate as participating in political campaigns,” ZDF Director of Public Relations, Colonel Overson Mugwisi, told the media at a press briefing recently.
“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”.
The research also found that the respondents identified at least military personnel deployed in their area.
“67% of the sampled respondents stated that at least five soldiers have been deployed in their communities. 11% of the respondents said at most five soldiers have been deployed in their communities while the remaining 22% did not comment,” the findings revealed.
On the perceived agenda of the soldiers, “38% of the sampled respondents said the soldiers are campaigning for President Emmerson Mnangagwa to be voted into office in the 30 July 2018 elections”.
However, 34 percent of the respondents said the soldiers are in the villages ostensibly to do government agricultural work (Command Agriculture program).
“Most of this 34%, however, said they believed the soldiers are actually working undercover, hiding behind the agricultural work cover. 7% comprising of mostly ZANU-PF supporters said the soldiers are maintaining peace and security in the villages while the rest declined to comment,” the survey revealed.
The Military has played a role in the country`s politics and recently led the Operation Restore Legacy which led to the resignation of President Robert Mugabe.