Summary of key findings
This study examined the military presence and fear as key ingredients in the 2018 menu of electoral manipulation in villages and the implications on the attainability of a free and fair election in Zimbabwe this year. A team of Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI) researchers collected data from a sample of 154 key informants who were purposively sampled from among leaders of community-based organisations, traditional leaders, war veterans, members of the security sector, members of the opposition political parties, members of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party and ordinary villagers. Data collection was done from April to July 2018 through 64 in-depth interviews with key informants in sampled constituencies and three provincial focus group discussions in Mutare, Gweru, and Masvingo attended by 90 participants. The key areas unpacked by the study are as follows:
Perception on presence of soldiers in villages
81% of the sampled respondents agreed that there are soldiers in villages while 19% dismissed the claims.
Part of those agreeing on the presence of soldiers in villages are traditional leaders, community-based organisations leaders, politicians, liberation struggle war veterans, civil servants and ordinary villagers.
Most of those who dismissed the claims are members of the ruling ZANU-PF party.
Extent of military presence per village / community
67% of the sampled respondents stated that at least five soldiers have been deployed in their communities.
11% of the respondents said at most five soldiers have been deployed in their communities while the remaining 22% did not comment.
Perception of intensity of military presence in communities / by province
100% of the respondents sampled in Mashonaland Central province said more than five soldiers have been spotted in their villages.
In other provinces the percentages of those who agreed that at least five soldiers have been deployed in their villages are as follows: Mashonaland East province 88%, Mashonaland West province 72%, Masvingo province 60%, Midlands province 50%, and Matabeleland North province 38%.
The study, therefore, shows that military presence in villages is more intense in Mashonaland Central, East and West provinces as compared to the Midlands and Matabeleland North provinces.
Identification of soldiers in the village
42% of the respondents said the deployed soldiers move around wearing army uniforms.
The snap survey showed that soldiers also move around carrying guns and other military equipment. However, no cases of physical violence were recorded during this study.
Some soldiers move around in civilian clothes but easily identifiable as some of the soldiers come from the sampled areas.
Perceived agenda of soldiers in the village
The survey reveals highest responses of villagers being that the soldiers are campaigning for the ruling ZANU-PF party.
38% of the sampled respondents said the soldiers are campaigning for President Emmerson Mnangagwa to be voted into office in the 30 July 2018 elections.
34% of the respondents said the soldiers are in the villages ostensibly to do government agricultural work (Command Agriculture program). Most of this 34%, however, said they believed the soldiers are actually working undercover, hiding behind the agricultural work cover.
7% comprising of mostly ZANU-PF supporters said the soldiers are maintaining peace and security in the villages while the rest declined to comment.
Feelings about state of personal security under 'militarised' villages
46% of the sampled respondents said opposition political parties feel intimidated and deterred due to the militarization of the village while 45% stated that NGOs also feel intimidated and deterred for the same reason.
The study shows that the soldiers work closely with war veterans and traditional leaders. However, most of the war veterans and the traditional leaders support the soldiers out of fear of being labelled 'dissidents.'
Feelings about voting for the opposition with the military in villages
57% of the sampled respondents said they are afraid and feel insecure to vote for any opposition political party. They mentioned concerns about intimidation from top ZANU-PF officials.
31% of the respondents said they feel secure to vote for the opposition and do not feel threatened.
Perceptions on the possibility of free and fair elections on 30 July 2018
48% of the respondents said election results will not be a true reflection of free choices of the people because of the military presence in the villages.
41% of the respondents said the upcoming election results will be a true reflection of free choices of the people.
Possible impacts of military presence in villages on vote apathy
76% of the respondents said they will go and vote on the polling day knowing that there are soldiers in the village. Of this 76%, however, almost half mentioned that citizens' voting would not be out of free will but out of fear.
10% of the respondents said they will not go and vote as their votes will make no difference.
Source: Zimbabwe Democracy Institute