Opposition MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa has taken his battle with President Emmerson Mnangagwa for the country’s leadership a notch higher by referring to himself as the commander-in-chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF).
In his Defence Forces Day message yesterday, Chamisa said he was proud of the ZDF’s professional conduct but slammed Zanu PF politicians for “abusing” the country’s security forces since independence from Britain in 1980 saying the development had eroded the force’s integrity.
“That is why, as the commander-in-chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, I will never put you through the experience of being asked to abuse and kill the people you serve,” Chamisa said.
This came in the wake of the shooting of civilians by the military about a fortnight ago following demonstrations against the way the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) ran the July 30 polls.
Government and Zanu PF have laid the blame squarely on the MDC Alliance and its leadership, which they accuse of inciting riotous behaviour.
Chamisa, 40, has since approached the Constitutional Court (Con-Court), contesting Mnangagwa’s poll victory.
Mnangagwa, aged 75, was declared by Zec as having polled 50,8 percent of the vote in the July 30 harmonised elections, against Chamisa’s 44,3 percent.
In court papers filed on Friday last week, the MDC Alliance leader claims to have polled 60 percent of the vote.
The petition scuppered president-elect Mnangagwa’s inauguration as president of Zimbabwe, which had been scheduled for August 12.
The Con-Court is expected to make its determination within 14 days.
Chamisa commended the ZDF’s work in the region and abroad and pledged to “restore the respect and dignity to every individual who has agreed to serve our country”.
“I will make sure that you are loved and celebrated by Zimbabwe and her friends, never shall our people view our military with doubt and contempt.
‘‘On the streets, you will be loved and respected for your service. Our military deserves our respect,” he said.
The former ICT minister said the MDC has had a review of the military and resolved to engage the institution with respect.
“And, as commander-in-chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to re-engage our military in a professional manner.
“Never again will our military be under the control of politicians to engage in activities that diminish its national standing.
“Our military must be above abuse and my government will seize our electoral victory to start an initiative to re-build our armies to allow for a re-orientation of our forces,” Chamisa said.
While condemning the army’s heavy handedness, he insisted that the ZDF was generally professional and that Zimbabweans needed to respect them.
“Our military is professional and I can assure you that, although what happened in Harare was caused by a section of our military, they were carrying out orders given by a politician.
“You can notice that the soldiers who carried out the orders did it with tears streaming down their faces,” Chamisa said adding “as president” he was convinced that professionalism was still in the army ranks.
“When I have taken the military oath as commander-in-chief of such a proud and colourful military force, my commitment is to deploy only if I am convinced that the security of Zimbabwe and the safety of people is at stake”.