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General warns army on backing opposition

HARARE – A top Zimbabwean army general warned soldiers against supporting or entertaining sympathy for the main opposition, branding it an enemy of the country, state television said on Monday.

Political analysts say Zimbabwe’s military brass is fiercely loyal to the gov

erning ZANU-PF party and President Robert Mugabe, who co-led the country’s liberation war in the 1970s and has ruled since independence from Britain in 1980.

The television said Major-General Martin Chedondo “issued a warning” at an army passout parade in the central town of Gweru that supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) would not be tolerated in military ranks.

“In a no-holds-barred off-the-cuff speech … Major-General Martin Chedondo said it was the duty of every soldier to know the country’s enemies and to protect it from them,” it said.

The MDC was an enemy of the people and the state, and supporters of the MDC would not be tolerated in the Zimbabwe National Army, it added.

Zimbabwe Television did not say what had prompted the comment, but it showed a clip in which Chedondo said:

“If there is any among you who are supporters or have any sympathy for the MDC, then the military is not your place.”

Although the army officially says it is non-partisan, critics say Mugabe, 81, has turned the army into a private ZANU-PF defence institution in the face of a deepening economic crisis and growing opposition in the southern African country.

On the eve of presidential elections in 2002 — which the opposition charges Mugabe rigged — Zimbabwe’s army and security commanders warned in a strong but indirect statement that they would not tolerate a win by MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai. — Reuter

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