Army general threatens to force Zimbabweans to vote


Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) commander, Lieutenant General Anselem Sanyatwe

from MARCUS MUSHONGA in Harare, Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe Bureau
HARARE, (CAJ News) – THE threat by the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) that it would be compulsory for nationals to vote in future elections has been denounced as an affront to human rights.

Recently, the ZNA commander, Lieutenant General Anselem Sanyatwe, was quoted as saying people would be marched to polling stations “whether you like it or not.”

At an event, he said the governing Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), would “rule forever.”

The ex-liberation party has been in power since independence from Britain in 1980. It is accused of violence and vote rigging to retain power.

Allan Ngari, Africa advocacy director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said since the August 2023 general election, in which ZANU-PF failed to win an outright majority in parliament, the country had witnessed several by-elections in constituencies where opposition members of parliament were dismissed in a bizarre ploy.

“The dismissals were seen as an attempt to tilt the balance of power in ZANU-PF’s favour,” he said.

Ngari said Zimbabwe military commander’s open endorsement of the ruling party threatened the fairness of elections and opened the door for security force abuses against voters, the opposition, and civil society

“Zimbabwe’s security forces need to comply with the country’s laws and regulations that uphold its international human rights obligations to ensure that elections are free and fair,” Ngari said.

Zimbabwe’s uniformed forces are on record saying they will not acknowledge a winner of presidential elections if the candidate did not have liberation war credentials.

This was initially in reference to Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai (now late) after he defeated the also now-deceased incumbent Robert Mugabe of ZANU-PF in the 2008 election.

The military is accused of human rights violations in that election, and other polls, to retain ZANU-PF in power. An estimated 200 opposition supporters were killed in 2008.

When current president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, was elected in a disputed poll in 2018, the army shot dead a dozen citizens amid protests.

The previous year, the army overthrew Mugabe.

Mnangagwa (81) ascended to the presidency with a pledge of withholding human rights, but his administration is denounced as worse than Mugabe’s.

The Southern African country has a history of voter apathy amid conclusions by the populace that votea are always rigged.

– CAJ News

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