In a statement yesterday, Minister Mnangagwa said the Zimbabwe Defence Forces have a constitutional mandate to protect Zimbabwe from both external and or internal threat.
Addressing an MDC-T rally at Mkoba Stadium in Gweru on Sunday, Mr Tsvangirai threw a challenge at the security chiefs to resign from their posts and take up politics full time.
“Following the challenge by the Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai that the Service Chiefs remove their uniforms and openly contest for power, in an article which appeared in a local newspapers, the Minister of Defence wishes to advise the members of the public the following;
“From a professional point of view, the ZDF service chiefs found it unnecessary to respond to the uncalled for provocation by the Prime Minister’s utterances.
“It is, however, not proper for the Prime Minister to challenge the ZDF service chiefs as he did since it is common knowledge that the service chiefs would not respond to such political statements.
“The ZDF service chiefs have a constitutional mandate to protect the territorial integrity of our country and protect the nation of Zimbabwe from both external and or internal threat,” Minister Mnangagwa said.
He said he stood by Presidential Affairs Minister Didy-mus Mutasa’s reminder to Mr Tsvangirai to concentrate on running his party and stop attempts to provoke and bring the integrity of the service chiefs into disrepute.
Minister Mutasa, who was the Acting Defence Minister, on Monday said: “Tsvangirai should stop hiding behind unreasonable claims that soldiers are disturbing him. It is his inability that is making him a failure.
“He should just run his party in peace and if he has failed, he should find someone else to run it.
“He should not be saying those things about soldiers, saying President Mugabe is ill and all those stupid things,” Minister Mutasa said.
He said generals and their soldiers were professionals who executed their duties above politics.
Mr Tsvangirai told the rally that the security chiefs should declare their political interests openly and stop intimidating people.
“Some say we don’t support Tsvangirai and we will not support him but . . . let’s wait and see what happens after the elections. Why can’t we cross the bridge when we get to it?
“If you want politics, remove the uniform and we will show you what politics is. It is not guns. Stop intimidating people, convince Zimbabweans to vote for you,” Mr Tsva-ngirai said.
He added: “We don’t argue with soldiers. The institutions of the army and police are national organs not owned by individuals so if it’s about elections, remove the uniform and we meet in the political sphere.”
However, a Mthwakazi Liberation Front member, Mr Max Mkandla, blasted Mr Tsvangirai saying state security institutions should not be tampered with as doing so is tantamount to putting the nation at risk.
“As a former freedom fighter, I know the importance of State security. Service chiefs and those under their command are there to protect the country from external and internal enemies and therefore nobody should be allowed to destabilise state security institutions,” said Mr Mkandla, an ex-Zipra fighter.
He described Mr Tsvangirai’s remarks as reckless, adding that he did not expect such remarks from a person who aspired to rule the country.