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Tsvangirai warns generals

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MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai has described statements by security chiefs that they were not willing to work with him if he won elections as tantamount to a coup.

Report by Nduduzo Tshuma

Speaking for the first time since the generals made disparaging remarks about him, Tsvangirai, however, said he did not believe the security institutions were committed to subvert the will of the people, saying clear distinctions should be made between individual and institutional behaviour.

“If someone threatens the people before they even cast their vote, what is the use of going through that process, is that what the choice is for the country?

“I do not think it is, it is tantamount to a coup before the coup is conducted,” he told News24 onthe sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Cape Town, South Africa.

Tsvangirai, who has been demanding security sector reforms, said who the people voted for was not a matter for security chiefs, but they had to respect whoever won elections.

“It is not their choice. The choice is political. It is a political process. It has nothing to do with the generals. If the security sector is answerable to the civilian authority and the civilian authority feels that it is important to draw up a code of conduct for the role of the security sector that is up to them,” he said.

“If they were to subvert the role of the civilian authority it means that they have subverted the constitution. Is that what they are saying?

“I believe that all our soldiers, all our policemen are sworn in to uphold the constitutional provisions and that we have to distinguish between the institutional behaviour and the individual behaviour. We cannot focus on individual behaviour. We have to focus on the institutional behaviour.”

In the past weeks the country’s securocrats have escalated attacks on Tsvangirai with army commander General Constantine Chiwenga labelling the Premier a psychiatric patient in need of a competent psychiatrist.

Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri insinuated that Tsvangirai was a malcontent who did not deserve any attention from him as the chief of police.

In a partisan speech last Wednesday, prisons boss Paradzai Zimondi pleaded with senior warders to vote for Mugabe.

Tsvangirai said the generals, through their sentiments, were sending a “good message” that they will not respect the constitutional processes of the country and will subvert the will of the people.

“I think the timing is good because Sadc and the African Union (AU) and all the people concerned about the behaviour of some of these securocrats will now see that this is an issue that needs attention,” Tsvangirai said.

Asked what he would do about the generals, Tsvangirai said, “it is not for me to handle it. It’s all of us, the stakeholders of this electoral process, ourselves, Zanu PF, Sadc, AU, those that will say we want to conduct a free and fair election, which is credible and legitimate”.

Pressed further if he felt the army would stage a coup, Tsvangirai said he did not believe that the security institutions would subvert the will of the people.

“I don’t think that as an institution, these institutions are there to subvert the will of the people. I think that all Zimbabweans, including all these security institutions, are committed to see Zimbabwe move forward. We do not want to engage in a reversal of the progress we have made over the past four years,” he said.

Since the 2002 Presidential election, security chiefs have reiterated that they will not salute anyone without liberation war credentials, reinforcing their partisan support for President Robert Mugabe.

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