The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Soldiers Free to Join Parties of Their Choice - Mnangagwa

SOLDIERS are free to support political parties of their choice, but cannot hold positions in such parties, Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa has said. In an interview last week, Minister Mnangagwa said

sodliers took up arms against colonial rule for people to freely express their rights and belonging to a political party of one's choice is one of those rights.

As such, he said, soldiers were rightful citizens of Zimbabwe who should express their political rights by supporting and voting for parties of their choice.

"We went to war for us to have power to control the direction of politics in this country.

"Soldiers are free to vote for any political party and what they are not allowed to do is to hold positions in political parties.

"Political parties should come up with good manifestos and individual soldiers are free to vote for any party which they think has a constructive policy."

MDC formations have in the past criticised army generals for declaring that they would not support leaders without liberation war credentials.

The parties viewed such utterances as openly supporting Zanu-PF because of its history of the liberation struggle.

Some army generals publicly proclaimed that they would not support MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai because of his "sellout" policies.

Minister Mnangagwa said the army would do everything to defend the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

He said the defence forces upheld principles and values of peace as enshrined in the United Nations and African Union charters.

Minister Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe followed a non-aggressive and non-hostile defence policy.

"The ZDF policy prioritises the country's domestic stability and the prevention of external aggression," he said.

Zimbabwe is set to hold harmonised elections this year.

Army generals argue that they are part and parcel of the liberation movement because of their involvement in the liberation struggle that brought independence in 1980.

During the war, army generals fought under the banner of both Zapu and Zanu which merged to form Zanu-PF after a Unity Accord in 1987.

Analysts say the MDC factions are raising non-issues ahead of the elections to cause confusion.

Zanu-PF has always maintained that the MDC factions' accusation against the army generals is a clear sign that they do not have strong policies to sell to the electorate.

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