Army General demands elections this year

Harare – A senior Zimbabwe military officer has demanded that snap elections be held this year, in an interview Friday adding to concerns of military interference in the country's politics.

In an interview in the weekly Zimbabwe Independent newspaper, Brigadier-General Douglas Nyikaramba appears to be taking sides with President Robert Mugabe in pressing for elections soon, and not first awaiting the outcome of the country’s constitutional reform process.

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‘We (the military) need elections like yesterday,’ said Nyikaramba, the controversial head of one of five army brigades.

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Citing the need for ‘political stability’ he also insinuated that the Finance Ministry, run by an appointee from the coalition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), was withholding funds from the army.

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‘Maybe they want the soldiers to mutiny,’ the general said.

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The interview comes as Zimbabwe is in the midst of a drawn-out and fractious process of negotiating a new democratic constitution to be followed by free and fair elections possibly next year.

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But Mugabe instead is pressing for the ballot to be held in the next few months without the reforms which he is being pressed to carry out by his Southern African neighbours who are underwriting the coalition agreement.

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Nyikaramba made clear where his loyalties lie. ‘Why do you want to force him (Mugabe) to go? Has anyone changed his father just because he is old?’ Nyikaramba asked. ‘He is the leader of our revolutionary struggle and the struggle is still on.’

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Nyikaramba was discovered during the 2002 elections to be the chief elections officer of the state-appointed national election commission. Mugabe claimed the soldier had retired, but he appeared shortly afterwards in uniform and in control of his brigade. The commission’s chairman was a former army officer.

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The MDC says the same has happened again, with the new purportedly independent elections commission appointed in 2009 under the coalition government, staffed predominantly by military officers from the previous body.