Johannesburg – With less than two weeks before a tense general election, Zimbabwe’s governing party on Thursday vowed not to deploy the army to quell potential protests – a move that proved deadly at the last elections.
The army killed six people after it was called in to quell demonstrations after the disputed vote in 2018.
“I can assure you that if ever such a situation arose you are not likely to see a prompt recourse to the army,” Zanu-PF spokesperson Christopher Mutsvangwa said at a pre-election debate in Johannesburg.
Mutsvangwa said in 2018 that the army was deployed because the police were “not well trained”.
But training has since been addressed, and “We learn from our mistakes”, he told the roundtable organised by London-based think tank Chatham House.
Zimbabweans will head to the polls on August 23 to elect the president and legislature.
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The presidential race is largely a rematch between the 2018 leading contestants – President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zanu-PF and Nelson Chamisa, a 45-year-old lawyer who heads the country’s largest opposition party, the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC).
The run-up to the vote has been marked by a crackdown on dissent and suspicions over possible irregularities.
The debate was also attended by representatives of four opposition parties, who accused Zanu-PF of fomenting violence and instilling fear among the opposition.
Elections in Zimbabwe are “an extreme sport”, said Mthulisi Hanana, secretary-general of the ZAPU party.
Zanu-PF officials preach “peace during the day and unleash violence during the night. The default settings of Zanu-PF is when they have run out of ideas… they kill,” he said.
The CCC alleged last week that one of its members was stoned to death by ZANU-PF supporters in an ambush on the way to a rally in Harare.
Mutsvangwa said the party condemned the “heinous crime”, adding that police were investigating the killing “without fear or favour”.
“Zanu-PF does not sit as a party” to plan to “murder” anyone, he said.
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