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In an interview with the Independent, Ray urged President Robert Mugabe to order the security forces not to interfere in national politics.

“For elections to be free and fair there is need for the non-partisan conduct of state institutions such as the police, military, intelligence service, courts and electoral commission,” said Ray.

“This can only be achieved if Mugabe is genuine in his call for peaceful elections.”

Ray’s remarks come in the wake of repeated open declarations by the military of their support for Zanu PF, contrary to their constitutional responsibilities of remaining non-partisan while defending the territorial integrity of the country.

Last month, army chief of staff Major-General Martin Chedondo told about 3 000 soldiers at 2 Brigade that the military must be allowed to participate in national politics and called on them to support Zanu PF.

Ray said for Zimbabwe to hold free and fair elections and avoid the violence that plagued 2008 polls, the three parties in the inclusive government should commit to reforms as outlined in the Sadc roadmap for elections.

“Negotiators from all three major parties have to be committed to a roadmap leading to elections which was facilitated by Sadc. The roadmap includes the adoption of a revised electoral law, preparation of a new voters’ roll, new delimitation of constituencies and other reforms,” he said. 

“We call on the parties to honour their commitment and implement the roadmap provisions fully before any election is held”.

It is important, Ray said, that the next elections are transparent, verifiable, free and fair so that the will of the people can be expressed and respected.

Ray said contrary to widespread belief that the West is sympathetic to the MDC and champions regime change in Zimbabwe, it upholds democratic rights for individuals to choose a leader of their choice.

“We do not sympathise with the MDC, but it is important in any democratic system that multiple parties and candidates participate in elections so that the electorate has a choice and different viewpoints, and that policies are proposed and debated,” Ray said.

He said all political parties should be allowed to campaign and enjoy broad access to the media, and fully participate in an open non-violent election. 
Ray said Zimbabwe’s relations with the US had improved as demonstrated by his country’s commitment to ongoing humanitarian support and an active dialogue on human rights, economic growth and the establishment of democracy.