By Lackson Munkombwe and Collins Chirinda
ZIMBABWE Democracy Institute (ZDI) has presented a highly quantitative research on “…military deterrence of the village vote: perceptions on the 2018 election environment” with main findings revealing heavy military presence in rural villages, a situation which has induced psychological fear among villagers as the nation draws close to the harmonized elections.
Presenting the research findings at Media Centre today, ZDI Director, Dr. Pedzisai Ruhanya said the research paper presents critical factors as to whether Zimbabwe is going to hold credible, free and fair elections in view of the reported military presence in some parts of the country.
He said Zimbabwe is ranked amongst the top 10 most militarized countries in sub-Saharan Africa and subsequently top 75 globally, signifying the importance of the military apparatus in maintaining the status quo of the ruling government.
“Zimbabwe’s increased militarization and the military’s direct interference in the country’s civilian and political affairs came under the spotlight on 15 November 2017 when the Zimbabwe Defense Forces leadership initiated “Operation Restore Legacy,’ that led to the overthrow of former president, Robert Mugabe,” said Dr. Ruhanya.
He said the ZDI embarked on a research between April and July 2018, with in-depth interviews being conducted in places including Hurungwe, Zaka, Zvimba, Mt-Darwin and Tsholotsho .
“The timing of deployments makes them a “strategic” and sudden increment in actual and perceived military presence and it is militarization of key state and or party structures that have direct contact with villagers on daily bases to intensify fear,” reads the report.
“Empirical data of military presence in villages across Zimbabwe could be a key indicator of the significant obstacles of the ability to deliver free fair and credible elections in this country,” said Dr. Ruhanya.
The research commends that election observers to observe the electoral environment in rural areas and assessment of electoral violence should go beyond physical violence top the psychological.
ZDI is a research institute that focuses on humanitarian issues and democracy in Zimbabwe and has previously published reports in relation to the Zimbabwean political environment.