President Robert Mugabe on Tuesday begged the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) and other security organisations to remain loyal, patriotic and focused in defending the country’s sovereignty.
Mugabe’s call came at a time Zanu PF attempted to unleash security forces to disrupt the census programme by demanding 10 000 positions for enumerators, a move that was seen as meant to militarise the civilian process.
Zanu PF hardliners, among them Security Chiefs, have threatened not to back the new draft constitution unless their new demands were incorporated in the charter.
Soldiers have also in recent months been disrupting MDC-T rallies in Mashonaland West province, Mugabe’s home area.
Mugabe pleaded for peace that he said was paramount in the country’s economic development.
“My wish as Commander-in-Chief is that you continue to support us as we explore other ways of adequately defending the country to enable all Zimbabweans and the business community to engage in economic development initiatives without any disturbances,” he said.
Mugabe said he was keen to see the welfare of military men — whom he described as “special” due to their defence endeavours — improve when the country has the resources.
His appeal came at a time Zanu PF is fighting accusations that security forces were entering into “unbalanced business” relations with the Chinese, a move that the MDC-T claims has depleted the country’s resources.
“Allow me to take this opportunity to appeal to the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, other security organisations and all progressive Zimbabweans to remain focused, loyal and patriotic to the noble spirit of jealously defending Zimbabwe and its rich natural resources for the benefit of the present and future generations,” Mugabe pleaded in Harare.
“We should join hands to resist the unjustified plunder of our resources by undeserving foreign forces that come to us like friends in the name of democracy and globalisation, yet they habour sinister ulterior motives.”
Mugabe also castigated the West for imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe and interfering with the Kimberley Process to frustrate the country’s efforts to sell diamonds.
“Recent developments in the country have pointed to other countries having direct interests in the control of our natural resources as demonstrated by our detractors’ shameless and spirited efforts to influence the Kimberley Process certification Scheme in the sale of Zimbabwean diamonds,” he said.
But MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said Mugabe’s speech was “hollow” since it did not caution military elements who disturbed civilian programmes daily.
He said MDC-T attended the ZDF celebrations to honour the role played by the military in defending national Independence, but was against partisan practice by individuals in the force.
“The constitutional mandate of the military is to defend the country’s Independence and not to harass Zanu PF opponents. As MDC-T, we are for democracy and globalisation and it’s sad that Mugabe is portraying us as enemies of the people. His speech is about the usual diatribe against progressive forces in the country. He said nothing about democracy, while denigrating those who call for democracy,” Mwonzora said.
He said Mugabe deliberately used the term “undeserving foreigners” to try to protect the Chinese whom he has been giving mining concessions throughout the country.
“Zimbabwe is experiencing a second type of imperialism from the Chinese. They are mining everywhere and not remitting money to Treasury,” he said.
Finance minister Tendai Biti was forced to review his Mid-Term Budget downwards after diamond revenue from Anjin, a Chinese firm in partnership with the military, failed to remit money.
Mwonzora said the army should back down from the mining ventures as it was outside their mandate.
The army runs a diamond mine in Marange under Mbada Holdings.