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Shameful threats

UTTERANCES and statements emerging from Zimbabwe’s uniformed forces, starting with retired Major General Paradzai Zimondi, head of prisons, to the effect that they will not accept or salute either opposition Movement for Democratic Change presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai or independent and former ruling party minister Simba Makoni should they win tomorrow’s presidential election cannot go unchallenged.

Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri and Army General Constantine Chiwenga are also on record saying they will not accept Robert Mugabe losing to what
they derisively termed “puppets”.
There is no room for such misguided utterances in Zimbabwe. These men of uniform must resign with immediate effect.
Zimbabweans will not be held to ransom by a bunch of men who should know that it is highly unprofessional for the army, police and prison service to delve into political matters or to attempt to influence the vote by spreading fear, alarm and despondency. Political engagement and discourse is for civilians and civilians alone. It is a fundamental right of the people of Zimbabwe to determine through the ballot who they wish to lead them.
The uniformed forces must be reminded that this is none of their business. The uniformed forces belong to the people of Zimbabwe and have an obligation to respect democratic political processes and must swear allegiance to whomsoever Zimbabweans choose as leader.
It must be stated clearly that it is treasonous and shameful for the leadership of uniformed forces to issue such irresponsible statements threatening to return to war if President Mugabe loses elections.
It is shameful for the government of Zimbabwe to remain silent and not condemn outright such utterances. Worst of all, it is shameful and unacceptable that Sadc and the international community should remain silent in the face of these treasonous statements which are obviously meant to sway and compel voters to vote for a value system that is unmarketable and can only be forced down the throats of the masses.
Effectively, Chihuri, Chiwenga and Zimondi have become Zanu PF campaign agents, poor ones at that, as they only know the language of threats.  
It is very strange that, in the face of all these unconstitutional and inflammatory utterances, South African President Thabo Mbeki still has the audacity to express hope that Zimbabwe’s elections will be free and fair. One wonders what benchmarks Mbeki is
applying to elections in Zimbabwe; they are certainly not the Sadc guidelines, standards and norms for the conduct of free and fair elections.
How can elections in Zimbabwe be possibly credible, free and fair when the electorate is threatened with war should they vote out Mugabe?
Enough is enough. We cannot accept mortgaging Zimbabwe’s future to a few cronies who selfishly cling to the past and are keen to destroy Zimbabwe for selfish, personal interests.
In a new Zimbabwe there will be no place for unqualified and unprofessional people in our uniformed forces. People will hold office on the basis of merit and merit alone, so let beneficiaries of political patronage beware.
This old guard in the army, police and prisons must know that it is now time for professional uniformed forces who are not in any way part of political
formations and that should either Tsvangirai or Makoni win in this weekend’s elections, if they do not wish to salute they must simply resign and go home.
Already they have outlived their usefulness in these institutions and must be replaced in order to take our uniformed forces back to values of impartiality, patriotism, professionalism and allegiance to Zimbabwe’s constitutional values. 
Chihuri, Chiwenga and Zimondi cannot masquerade as kingmakers and godfathers of Zimbabwean politics. They must confine themselves to their terms of engagement which categorically exclude meddling in political affairs of the country.
The rank and file in the army, police and prisons must also reject these patently partisan and unprofessional utterances and be patriotic enough to resist illegal orders to vote for Mugabe. Soldiers, police officers and prison officers have a right to vote, and their vote must be a secret and a personal choice and not an order from anyone.
I am hopeful and positive that the views expressed by these cronies are views of a tiny minority and do not reflect the views of the majority inside and outside uniformed forces. It is my sincere hope and trust and my prayer that sense will prevail over madness.

Dewa Mavhinga,
Human rights lawyer.

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