Zimbabweans go to the polls Saturday to vote on a new constitution that would pave the way for elections, but many believe the army and police, not voters, may ultimately decide the country’s fate. While the referendum on the constitution is largely expected to be fair, the main event — elections slated for July — may be decided by the outsize influence of a handful of those close to President Robert Mugabe, 89, the country’s leader for the past 33 years. Those allies include police chief Augustine Chihuri, who reportedly told senior police officers at a retreat late last year that anyone who did not support Mugabe’s party, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), had no business being on the force.
Lest there be any confusion, Chihuri also denounced Mugabe’s opponents, including Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, as “stooges of the West”.
Police officers across the country were also ordered to register as voters, and, reportedly, to vote for ZANU-PF.
Chihuri, a key Mugabe ally, is a veteran of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle. He is also Zimbabwe’s longest-serving police chief since independence in 1980.
He is one of many senior security force officials in Mugabe’s inner circle.
Oliver Mandipaka, a senior police officer, is reported to have thrown his hat into the ring as a ZANU-PF parliamentary candidate in Buhera, in south-east Zimbabwe.
High-ranking army officers such as Brigadier General Douglas Nyikayaramba have also publicly declared their allegiance to ZANU-PF.
Full Article: Army, police shadow looms over Zimbabwe polls.