Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has called on the Defence Forces to remain impartial, respect human rights and civil authority as stated in the country’s constitution.
Section 211 and 212 of the constitution recognises the role and significance of the military in safeguarding territorial integrity.
But the country’s military stands accused of meddling in politics in the past and specifically in November 2017 when it played an important role in launching President Emmerson Mnangagwa into power after taking over from Robert Mugabe.
This was at the height of internal fighting within the ruling Zanu-PF party over then President Mugabe’s succession.
Recently, public confidence in the army suffered immensely following the killing of civilians on August 1 last year and its crackdown on people during this year’s January Shutdown period.
In a statement to mark Defence Forces Day, MDC leader, Nelson Chamisa encouraged the army to swiftly address concerns about impartiality on partisan politics, respect for human rights and subordination to civilian authority as enshrined in the constitution.
“We know that the majority of our defence forces are bound by and are faithful to their oaths as defenders of the nation. The few who stray beyond the lines of professionalism should never be allowed to taint the entire institution. This taint can be cleansed by holding to account those who have strayed. Regrettably, we have lost innocent lives in the past year at the hands of such elements,” he said.
Chamisa highlighted that the MDC echoed public and international sentiment of accountability for these losses to prevent a culture of impunity.
“To this end, I am quite encouraged by the comments by the National Army Commander Lieutenant General Edzai Absolom Chanyuka Chimonyo and Zimbabwe Army Commander General Philip Valerio Sibanda who have recently both passionately spoken about the need for a professional, disciplined and non-partisan Defence Force which protects Zimbabwe, its people, its national security and interests and its territorial integrity and to uphold the Constitution,” he said.
The army, Chamisa pointed out was also not spared by the country’s economic and social challenges.
“They are our brothers, our sisters, fathers and mothers to some and uncles and aunties to others. They are our brothers and sisters in law. In short, they are people like us, facing the same darkness when electricity is down, the same anxiety when the new school term begins and there is no money for school fees. They are, like many of us, breadwinners without the bread; wage earners with eroding wages.
“When we express ourselves, we are also doing it on their behalf; on behalf of and with their families, friends and neighbours, singing songs of freedom and prosperity that they cannot sing on account of their job,” he noted.
Chamisa said under a MDC government, people could expect a military built on a “foundation of meritocracy, patriotism and professionalism, where service, merit and excellence take precedence.”
“Therefore, as we celebrate and honour the defence forces, we call upon our men and women to uphold, defend and respect the core values that helped our forebears to prosecute the liberation struggle together with and not against the people,” he noted.