Exiled former Higher Education Minister Jonathan Moyo says the number of soldiers embedded “in every street and village in Zimbabwe” now stands at 5 000 and had asked people to worry more about this than the trip of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s special advisor Chris Mutsvangwa and Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chair Priscillah Chigumba to Russia to observe elections in that country.
One of Zimbabwe’s opposition parties has voiced concern over Chigumba’s joining the trip arguing that this compromises her independence.
Moyo tweeted: “Worry more & do something urgent about the over 5,000 soldiers that have been embedded in every street & village in Zimbabwe to rig the #2018Election; than this picture of bemused & clueless observers of the just ended Russian election; out in the cold with their paraffin-scarf!”
Initially Moyo said there were 2 000 soldiers embedded in the community to help rig the elections.
National People’s Party leader Joice Mujuru said Mnangagwa had deployed 3 000 to campaign for his party.
Binga North legislator Prince Dubeko Sibanda urged the government to withdraw these soldiers threatening to expose them to election observers if they were not.
Sibanda, however, said that these soldiers were deployed during the Robert Mugabe era and he had raised the issue with then Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi which probably explains why Jonathan Moyo knows about them.
Sibanda told Parliament last week during the debate on the Electoral Amendment Bill: “I anticipated this law to look at the deployment of soldiers in communities. Hon. Speaker, I was in Binga on Friday. I do not want to talk about somewhere else, let me talk about the constituency from which I come from.
“I went there with the Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care to conduct public hearings. During that meeting, as some people were introducing themselves, I can give you an example of two soldiers who introduced themselves as peasant farmers.
“The reason why they introduced themselves as peasant farmers is because amongst the audience in that meeting, they knew them as members of the Zimbabwe’s military who have been in the communities for over two to three years whilst they are withdrawing salaries from the Ministry of Defence. The audience knows these people as individuals. These are soldiers deployed in the community.
“Hon. Speaker, for record purposes, I actually spoke to the former Minister of Defence, Hon. Sydney Sekeramayi sometime last year but one and I gave him a list of soldiers deployed in our communities in Binga North Constituency. They have no other role that they are doing except to be going around intimidating citizens to conduct themselves in a manner that suits a political party. Hon. Speaker, I have got the names with me.
“If it is the desire of this House, we can produce the names and ID Numbers because these are people who live in our communities. They are our own brothers and sisters, one of them is actually my own brother’s son and these soldiers have been deployed there to harass people in the communities.
“We therefore demand without apology that those people should go back to the barracks and leave the community to make a free and fair choice on which leaders they want to see in the next Parliament and Government. We need that Hon. Speaker. We are not going to be silent.
“Even as the election monitors come into this country Hon. Speaker, it will be very embarrassing for us to go and show them individuals in their homesteads and say, ‘this one is a soldier, this is their service number and so on’. Those people are withdrawing salaries from the Government for purposes of only intimidating members of the community to decide in the forthcoming elections in a particular manner.”