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‘No free and fair election unless army reforms’

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The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) has ruled out the possibility of holding free and fair elections as long as the military remains partisan.

In its bi-monthly update released over the weekend, Zesn — which has deployed observers in the country’s 210 House of Assembly constituencies — said the coalition government had remained “fragile with evident cracks” as shown by the parties’ failure to reconcile their differences.

The civic electoral body cited recent remarks by security service chiefs that they would not accept anyone without liberation war credentials as President of the nation as a case in point and pointed out the need for security sector reform before elections.

Zesn said it was not amused by President Robert Mugabe’s reaction to Parliament when the august House debated statements made by security chiefs.

“President Mugabe is on record as having warned Parliament to leave his generals alone. This condoning and defence of the generals’ statement by the President does not give confidence on the functionality of the GNU,” Zesn said.

“Such statements do not provide any hope of the possibility of security sector reform given that it is one of the issues that have remained unresolved in the implementation of the Global Political Agreement and the election roadmap. In light of the role played by the military in the (2008) presidential election run-off and their alleged deployment to provinces to ‘get things in order’, there are far-reaching implications for the conduct of an election under an unreformed security sector. The Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network calls for a military that is professional operating squarely within its constitutional mandate of protecting national security and not partisan interests.”

In his Heroes and Defence Forces Days message at the weekend, MDC-T leader Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai ordered the military to remain confined to their barracks and stop allegedly brutalising citizens and meddling in party politics.

“They (soldiers) 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,” he said.

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