A survey conducted by the Zimbabwe Democracy Initiative (ZDI) shows that some members of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces have already been deployed in the country’s rural areas and there are fears that they are campaigning for the ruling Zanu PF party ahead of the July 30th general elections.
The findings of the survey in which 154 respondents took part and were drawn from different groups of people, including traditional leaders, indicate that soldiers were deployed in areas mainly where there were some ousted members of Zanu PF’s Generation 40 faction allegedly led by former First Lady, Grace Mugabe.
“The survey reveals highest responses of villagers being that the soldiers are campaigning for the ruling ZANU-PF party … 38% of the sampled respondents said the soldiers are campaigning for President Emmerson Mnangagwa to be voted into office in the 30 July 2018 elections.”
But some people believed that the soldiers are doing state work.
“… 34% of the respondents said the soldiers are in the villages ostensibly to do government agricultural work (Command Agriculture program). Most of this 34%, however, said they believed the soldiers are actually working undercover, hiding behind the agricultural work cover … 7% comprising of mostly ZANU-PF supporters said the soldiers are maintaining peace and security in the villages while the rest declined to comment.”
Forty six percent of the sampled respondents said opposition political parties feel intimidated and deterred due to the militarization of the village while 45% stated that NGOs also feel intimidated and deterred for the same reason.
The study shows that the soldiers work closely with war veterans and traditional leaders.
“However, most of the war veterans and the traditional leaders support the soldiers out of fear of being labelled ‘dissidents.’”
Fifty seven percent of the sampled respondents said they are afraid and feel insecure to vote for any opposition political party.
“They mentioned concerns about intimidation from top ZANUPF officials. Thirty one percent of the respondents said they feel secure to vote for the opposition and do not feel threatened.”
According to the ZDI, 48% of the respondents said election results will not be a true reflection of free choices of the people because of the military presence in the villages.
But 41% of the respondents said the upcoming election results “will be a true reflection of free choices of the people.”
In terms of possible impacts of the military presence in villages on voter apathy, 76% of the respondents said they will go and vote on the polling day knowing that there are soldiers in the village.
“Of this 76%, however, almost half mentioned that citizens’ voting would not be out of free will but out of fear … 10% of the respondents said they will not go and vote as their votes will make no difference.”
Eighty one percent of the sampled respondents agreed that there are soldiers in villages while 19% dismissed the claims.
Part of those agreeing on the presence of soldiers in villages are traditional leaders, community-based organisations leaders, politicians, liberation struggle war veterans, civil servants and ordinary villagers.