MDC-T leader Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has ordered the military to be confined to their barracks and stop brutalising citizens and meddling in party politics.
In his Heroes and Defence Forces Day message yesterday, Tsvangirai also called for the military to be non-partisan and disciplined in order to retain their credibility.
Zimbabwe today and tomorrow commemorates Heroes and Defence Forces days.
The Defence Forces Day is meant to celebrate the role the security forces play in preserving the independence and territorial integrity of the country.
“They are a respected national institution that should serve and protect the people and the country regardless of the government and the political leadership of the day,” he said.
“They should be at the epicentre of defending and protecting the people and not attacking and brutalising them. The past few years have seen the deployment of some members of the army into villages to brutalise and attack innocent civilians on the basis of their political affiliation.
“It is international best practice that the army should confine itself to the barracks and leave politics to politicians. As leaders, we have no reason to be fighting our national institutions if they are performing their national duty. But, we naturally take umbrage at the militarisation of our politics and the politicisation of the military.”
Tsvangirai said the defence forces had played an important role in liberating the country and had also done the nation proud while on United Nations peace-keeping missions.
However, he said liberating the country did not mean they should suppress the will of the people. The premier also reminded the army they were sworn to upholding the country’s constitution.
“…When they took up the gun, they did not do so to liberate members of one political party. They did so to bring freedom to every Zimbabwean regardless of race, colour or creed,” he said.
Tsvangirai’s comments come at a time when the role of the security forces in the country’s politics has come under scrutiny, especially after Zimbabwe National Army Brigadier-General Douglas Nyikayaramba said security forces could not be separated from Zanu PF, before singling out Tsvangirai as a national security threat.
Nyikayaramba also said President Robert Mugabe should remain in office till death, adding, he would not salute Tsvangirai if he ascended to national presidency.
But, Tsvangirai’s remarks come against a backdrop of reports soldiers had already been deployed to some rural areas as part of Zanu PF’s intimidation campaign tactics ahead of the next elections.