Harare (Newsday) – THE oppositon Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF) has lashed out at Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) Commander, General Constantino Chiwenga, for wading into politics under the cover of military fatigue.
Chiwenga has become vocal and on the eve of Defence Forces and Heroes holidays declared the military would not be restricted to barracks “when the revolution is under threat”.
In a statement yesterday, former Vice-President Joice Mujuru’s party said the opposition movement “take(s) great exception to the involvement of senior management of the defence forces in partisan political activities”.
“In terms of section 211, ‘the defence forces must respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all persons and be non-partisan, national in character, patriotic, professional and subordinate to civilians as established in the Constitution’.
“Contrary to the provisions of sections 211 and 208 of the Constitution where ‘members of the security services must act in accordance with the Constitution and the law’ and must not ‘act in a partisan manner’ or ‘further the interests of any political party or cause’, the recent utterances by ZDF Commander, General Constantino Chiwenga, are ultra vires these provisions and should be condemned in the strongest of terms,” ZimPF said.
The opposition party said by commenting on statements made by Mujuru at the ZimPF rally in Mashonaland East province, Chiwenga had effectively become a politician.
“Chiwenga has abdicated his role as the ZDF Commander assuming new roles as [President Robert] Mugabe’s spokesperson, Zanu PF spokesperson, spokesperson for the war veterans, all rolled into one,” the statement said.
ZimPF accused Chiwenga of using bullying tactics against opposition forces.
“It is our belief that Chiwenga’s involvement in partisan politics and his penchant for issuing out threats to political activists is tantamount to using his military office to intimidate and bully opposition party members who are exercising their rights and freedoms of expression and association and the right to belong to political parties of their choice.
“We respect Chiwenga’s rights as a Zimbabwean, his freedom of expression and his right to associate or join a political party of his choice, but we implore him to do that within the confines of the law and outside his official designation as commander of our armed forces,” the party said.
ZimPF called on Chiwenga to “relinquish his position in the force and join politics wherein he would subject himself to the vagaries of political criticism without the luxury of falling back on military force against perceived opponents”.