Exclusive: Army recruits asked for opinion about Chamisa as president

HARARE – The Zimbabwe National Army has placed perceptions around Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) leader Nelson Chamisa at the heart of its recruitment exercise, ZimLive can reveal.

Army recruits who qualified for the second phase of vetting after running a timed 10km marathon last month were examined over their opinions on the 44-year-old leader of the country’s main opposition.

ZimLive interviewed two people who took part in the vetting exercise and corroborated the information.

The CCC said it was appalled by our findings.

After undergoing a medical examination, the recruits were sat down for a written test which featured 23 questions starting with requirement to pen a two-page biography.

The young would-be soldiers were stunned, however, when they were asked for their opinions on Chamisa, a lawyer leading Zimbabwe’s biggest opposition party formed only in February.

“It was the last three questions which were quite political,” one said, speaking on condition they were not named.

According to their recollections, the would-be recruits – knowing the military’s bias towards the ruling Zanu PF party – were forced to lie to show their affinity to the party that has been in power for 42 years.

One question asked: “Given the history of Zimbabwe which you know, how do you view Mr Nelson Chamisa being the next of head of state?”

Another question asked: “Zimbabwe is facing economic challenges. Which political party do you wish to win in 2023?”

One of the people who spoke to ZimLive said the final question asked if Chamisa could win the 2023 harmonised elections, and required them to “give reasons why.”

It is not known what the correct answers were, according to the military chiefs.

The shock recruitment methods, which appeared aimed at excluding opposition supporters, have alarmed the CCC.

The military top brass, according to sources, has in recent years ordered recruiters to give preference to young recruits who attended rural schools owing to a perception that those who attended city schools are aligned with the opposition.

“If these reports are true, this represents the most egregious and appalling abuse of a state institution which should be politically colourless,” a spokesman for Chamisa said.

“President Chamisa believes that the military should outlive any president and that it is wrong to personalise the institution. We note, however, that this is a tacit admission that the CCC is the next government in Zimbabwe, and the few gatekeepers holding everyone hostage are sensing the same.”

A retired former ranking military officer told ZimLive that the new recruitment system established by the Zimbabwe National Army was “unheard of”.

“In the past it was always the timed run, your BMI and your documents including education certificates,” he said. “What you are saying doesn’t surprise me because for the last two intakes or so, there was a silent programme to reject people from city schools, the perception being that they are opposition youths.”

Questions sent to the Zimbabwe National Army spokesman had not been answered.

The military has intervened in political affairs over the last four years in Zimbabwe, starting with a 2017 coup to resolve a Zanu PF factional fight.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who succeeded Robert Mugabe after the putsch, once gain called on the army to quell opposition protests in August 2018 and January 2019 following his disputed election victory. Dozens were killed.

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