In a rare move, Robert Mugabe’s office has ordered all members of the uniformed forces based in the capital Harare to attend a pass-out parade of more than 200 police recruits on Saturday.
from our correspondent in Harare
Mugabe, the commander-in-chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces is expected to officiate.
Sources in Mugabe’s office disclosed that they were working round-the-clock to ensure that the pass out is held by Saturday without fail. Mugabe is willing use the occasion to campaign against his bitter rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, president of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). They said Mugabe was expected to order the uniformed forces to “defend independence and sovereignty to the death”.
“We are expecting all uniformed forces based in Harare to attend the pass-out parade of police officers where Mugabe is expected to officiate […] All uniformed forces serving in the army, the police, air force, the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) and the prison services have been ordered to attend the parade where the President is expected to make very important announcements on the state and the direction which the country is expected to take. The address will also include the role that the armed forces will play in the future of the country.”
Traditionally, the pass-out parade is held at Morris Depot, but plans are at advanced stage to move it to the much bigger Gwanzura Stadium in Highfields to accommodate the anticipated large turnout.
The timing of the occasion coincides with widespread accusations that Zanu-PF is using violence and intimidation to force people to vote for Mugabe who was crushed by Tsvangirai in presidential elections held on March 29.
Soldier based at Inkomo Barracks were on Monday addressed by senior officers at the barracks and told that they would all receive postal ballots where they would vote in front of their commanders.
The decision to monitor the voting of the uniformed forces was prompted by an alleged realization that Zanu-PF had performed dismally among soldiers and policemen in the March 29 elections.
Zimbabwe’s army generals have admitted that ruling Zanu PF supporters are behind the politically-motivated violence that has left 32 opposition supporters dead and thousands homeless following President Robert Mugabe’s defeat in the March elections.
Meanwhile, in shocking revelations, a group of church leaders seen to be sympathetic to Mugabe regime have been told by commanders of the army, police and the secret service in Harare, that the security forces were worried about the escalating violence ahead of the election run-off end of June. They said both Zanu PF and MDC supporters had set up torture camps and “bases”, from where they were planning attacks against each other.
The group of security chiefs make up the Joint Operations Command (JOC), now in charge of the day-to-day running of the country following the disputed elections that saw Zanu PF also lose its parliamentary majority to the MDC for the first time since independence.
“Members of the JOC gave a very detailed overview of the historical context of where we have come from and where we are today,” said Trevor Manhanga, who led the church leaders at the meeting.
“It was made clear by members of the JOC that in the current context, there has been violence committed by both parties, Zanu PF and the MDC, though they felt that Zanu PF has reacted due to provocation. But they reluctantly admitted that Zanu Pf was behind all this violence and stage managing some incidents and blaming them on MDC,” he added.
Notably, no Zanu PF supporter has been arrested for the violence, while hundreds of MDC members, including newly elected members of parliament, have been jailed without charge.