By Tererai Karimakwenda
30 October 2012
Villagers in Gokwe, Mashonaland West, have reported that uniformed soldiers are forcing them to attend political rallies, where they are being warned that more soldiers with guns will be deployed to punish them if they do not support ZANU PF policies on the constitution and in elections due next year.
The report comes just a day after Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s spokesperson, Luke Tamborinyoka, told reporters that Robert Mugabe met with Tsvangirai on Monday and agreed to call a meeting with the country’s army generals, to discuss the issue of political violence and elections.
According to Tamborinyoka, Mugabe and Tsvangirai agreed that peaceful elections can only be held if soldiers were confined to their barracks during the poll. The meeting with army generals is scheduled for early next month.
These meetings with what is called the National Security Council (NSC) are supposed to be held every month, for Mugabe and Tsvangirai to discuss key security issues. But Mugabe has not called an NSC meeting with Tsvangirai for almost 5 months.
Mugabe is commander in chief of the military services and can order the soldiers to stay in their barracks if he wants to, especially during the elections. But given ZANU PF’s history of using the army to intimidate and assault people, there is concern that he is just paying lip service to Tsvangirai and will not restrain soldiers who attack any perceived “enemies of the state”.
Meanwhile an activist from Gokwe told SW Radio Africa that soldiers recently set up a camp at Moses Village in Mapfungautsi district. He said a soldier named Magwizi, who wears a military police uniform, appears to be in charge of the base. Another soldier named Mabhunu, is known to run a base at Nyarupakwe.
Our contact said the soldiers have been preaching ZANU PF propaganda at rallies that they are forcing people to attend. They have lists with the names of all local residents, which they get from traditional leaders like chiefs and headman. Those who fail to attend are penalized.
The next meeting will be held at a place called Rest Camp in Masore Area, which is under Headman Chingoma. It is not clear whether Chingoma is cooperating, or being forced by the soldiers.
Statements recently made by senior ZANU PF officials make it clear the party has no intention of allowing the MDC-T and party president Tsvangirai to take over, if they win the election next year.
In an interview earlier this month, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa told the BBC that Tsvangirai cannot be allowed to win the presidential poll. Chinamasa did not elaborate how this would be done. This was followed by ZANU PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo, telling South African television that there would be bloodshed if Tsvangirai won.