Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa accused of using armed forces to gain electoral advantage
The clearest indication yet that the Zimbabwe Defence Forces [ZDF] could be stakeholders in elections due to be held in three weeks’ time was recorded on camera at a Zanu PF rally on Saturday.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa's election campaign rolled into Bindura in Mashonaland Central for a rally where he preached‚ "We won't return farms to whites" - a message similar to that of his predecessor‚ Robert Mugabe.
However‚ soldiers were not amused when people started walking out during the president's address.
Video footage that has since gone viral on social media shows more than five soldiers in full military gear carrying assault rifles. The soldiers try to block a crowd charging away from the rally venue like animals running away from a predator in the wild.
One of the soldiers drops something which is identified in the video recording as being a firearm magazine.
Chaotic scenes @edmnangagwa rally in Bindura. Scores of people who were frogmarched to the @ZANUPF_Official rally now having running battles with soldiers trying to forcefullystop them from leaving the stadium.All this happening infront of @eueomzimbabwe 2018 Vote @nelsonchamisa pic.twitter.com/3y04lRpStS— Chalton Hwende (@hwende) July 7, 2018
Since coming into power through military assistance in November last year‚ Mnangagwa has been accused by the opposition of using uniformed forces to gain an electoral advantage.
Unconfirmed accusations levelled by the opposition are that at least 5‚000 out-of-uniform soldiers have been deployed countrywide since December last year. The allegations are that their role is to manage voters at cell level in mostly rural areas.
Another accusation is that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) employs serving members of the security forces‚ a claim flatly denied by the electoral body.
On Friday‚ rally-goers also walked out on Mnangagwa's address in Gokwe. Victor Matemadanda‚ Zanu PF's National Assembly candidate for the area‚ told journalists that someone had sent a mischievous message that had resulted in the mass walkout.
"As the President was addressing the people‚ some truck drivers started to spread messages that they were leaving the rally‚” he said.
The all-important election on July 30 will have 23 presidential aspirants and will be the first time without former president Robert Mugabe's name on the ballot paper since independence in 1980.