Last Updated on 23 July 2012
An estimated 400 uniformed and armed soldiers are reported to undergoing training in Magondo and Mupanguri villages in Ward 26 of Makoni South. Contacts on the ground have informed the Crisis report team that for just over a week now the soldiers have been marching every day, mainly at night and in the morning chanting ZANU PF slogans and singing ZANU PF songs. The military drills have led to an informal curfew descending on the two villages, as villagers have professed that they are afraid of moving around at night for fear of victimization ( which has taken place a couple of times). While others are reported to have pulled their children out of school in order to avoid having them crossing paths with the soldiers, whose reputation for harassment has spread across the villages. The residents of Ward 26 are clearly disturbed by the disturbance to their usually serene and peaceful tilling and farming lifestyle that the unannounced and unexplained presence of the army has wrought.
An MDC-T supporter in Magondo, who refused to be named for fear of further victimization, was reportedly victimized by a troop of about 25 soldiers for wearing an MDC-T t-shirt. The gentleman was on his way home when he came across the troop, is alleged to have been asked why he was wearing the MDC T t-shirt instead of a Robert Mugabe one. One of the soldiers is reported to have ripped the t-shirt off him and confiscated what remained of it, with a stern warning that if he was to be seen wearing another t-shirt of that kind, 'unofira mahara', (he would die for nothing).
In a related matter the Crisis Report team spoke to a villager who also chose to be anonymous for safety reasons, who explained that outside of the huge military presence, there were a total of 5 bases in the ward, with two of them being active bases where ZANU PF maintains an intimidating presence and occasionally takes perceived members of the opposition to for questioning and harassment. The bases were said to include Gwidza, Sherenje and Jakata bases. These said bases are reported to have been the epicenter of torture in 2008 in Makoni South, and are said to be sustained through support and patronage of one Major General George Kafesu. The villager admitted that while there is limited activity at the bases at the moment, they were a stark reminder of what happened in 2008, and were indicative of the fact that the infrastructure of violence was still intact and could be activity at will by the Major Generals command.
The MP for the area Honorable Pishai Muchauraya, confirmed that he had received reports from some members of the constituency that the said Major General Kafesu, is suspected of instructing the ZANU-PF Coordinator in the area, war veteran Nathaniel Mhiripiri to form militia bases and cajole traditional leader Chief Broadwork Gandanzara to drum up support for ZANU-PF. using his influence and threats of violence to mobilise communities under his chieftainship to attend ZANU-PF meetings. The Member of Parliament also stated that, inspite of the provisions of the constitution that demand that when the army is deployed in a civilian area, at the very least Parliament must be told about it, and informed of the reasons why they were there, he had no knowledge or prior information of the reasons behind the current deployment for purposes of training or otherwise.
These developments in Makoni South, are a key indicator of the reality that instead of withdrawing from civilian life, the military is further entrenching itself in civilians day to day lives. This development also occurs amid accusations that members of the military have been part of the ZANU PF gangs that have been disrupting MDC T rallies in Mashonaland Central, and maybe a response to calls by Major General Chedondo ( the army Chief of Stff, general Staff). Major General Chedondo, in May 2012 implored members of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces to be allowed to participate in national politics to remain loyal and defend the nation's territorial integrity and interests. Addressing over 3 000 troops from 2 Brigade undergoing a battlefield training exercise in Mutoko The Chief of Staff General Staff, said "soldiers should be involved in national politics as they are part of politics €.
The said actions and utterances, are a worrying signal that the military in Zimbabwe continues to ignore the need for their realignment, itself, an outstanding matter in terms of implementation of the GPA and are more and more moving away from their mandate to mandate to protect the people instead depicting themselves more as an armed gang with partisan loyalties akin to those of partisan militia.
Meanwhile civil society continues to make its solid demands for the military to stay in the barracks and subjugate itself to civilian oversight. It continues to assert that the military is not homogenous and that there are only a few high ranking officers who have deliberated made the choice to desist from becoming professional military man, choosing to the blunt instruments of choice for political actors, and dragging the rest of the army with them.