Zimbabwe: Chamisa Lures Army Ahead of August 16 Demo

Commander Zimbabwe Defence Forces General Philip Valerio Sibanda and Army Commander Lieutenant General Edzayi Chimonyo chat at the Heroes Day celebrations on August 12, 2019.

OPPOSITION leader Nelson Chamisa has appeared to plead with the country's army to join his MDC party's planned protest set for Friday that insiders claim is aimed at toppling President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

In a statement to mark Defence Forces Day Tuesday, Chamisa said while some soldiers might have "strayed", he was certain most of the country's uniformed forces understood the aspirations of ordinary Zimbabweans.

"When we express ourselves, we are also doing it on their (soldiers) behalf; on behalf of and with their families, friends and neighbours, singing songs of freedom and prosperity that they cannot sing on account of their job," Chamisa said.

He added that the men and women in uniform are suffering along with all citizens under Mnangagwa.

"Poverty, like rain, falls upon every roof. However, poverty is not a natural phenomenon. But since it is made by humankind, it can be overcome by humankind too, through working together in unison," said the MDC leader.

The MDC has given notice of what it has called "Free Zimbabwe March" set for August 16th which it officially says is aimed at pushing Mnangagwa to dialogue with Chamisa and find a lasting solution to "legitimacy issues" surrounding the Zanu PF leader's year old administration.

Chamisa suggested the current military set-up was established on partisan lines.

"Going forward, in a truly New Zimbabwe, under our new leadership, we envisage a defence forces that is built on a foundation of meritocracy, patriotism and professionalism, where service, merit and excellence take precedence.

"We aspire for a New Zimbabwe in which there is mutual respect between our defence forces and members of the public. In our New Zimbabwe, the military forces will be well-equipped, well-fed and well-remunerated," said the opposition leader.

Zimbabwe's army has always been accused of meddling in politics but for years denied this until November 2017 when then Commander Defence Forces and now Vice President Constantino Chiwenga led a bloodless mutiny that toppled then President Robert Mugabe.

Mnangagwa, who two weeks earlier had been sacked as Vice President, returned from a brief exile in South Africa to take over power.

He subsequently appointed Chiwenga as his deputy while a host of other generals have since found spaces in government and diplomatic postings.

Chamisa also drew from a wartime maxim used by liberation movements to keep the military in check.

"Politics will guide the gun and the ballot will manage the bullet," he said, adding, "in a New Zimbabwe, our military will not be owned or appropriated by any political party. The army is above partisan politics. Our military will be nonpartisan."

In the build-up to Heroes and Defence Forces holidays, the country's military top brass has declared it will respect the constitution and the rights of citizens including to petition but will only intervene when the security of the State is at stake.

Chamisa said he respected current Commander Defence Force General Philip Valerio Sibanda.

"We know that the majority of our defence forces are bound and are faithful to their oaths as defenders of the nation. The few who stray beyond the lines of professionalism should never be allowed to taint the entire institution.

"This taint can be cleansed by holding to account those who have strayed away from their constitutional prescriptions. Regrettably, we have lost innocent lives in the past year at the hands of such elements," he said making reference to two violent incidences in the past 12 months that claimed over 20 people in which the military is accused of using live ammunition to break up civilian protests.

"To this end, I am quite encouraged by the comments made by the *National Army Commander, Lieutenant General Edzai Absolom Chanyuka Chimonyo, and Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander, General Philip Valerio Sibanda."

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