"I don't mind soldiers having an opinion about who they want to vote for, but certainly a coercive military strategy to force people to support a particular candidate and to be active in the campaign has very dangerous consequences," he said.
Tsvangirai made the accusation in an exclusive interview with reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe. The interview came after Tsvangirai's campaign was obliged to call off a rally in an area of Matabeleland South province sealed off by heavily armed soldiers. Tsvangirai is to face President Mugabe on June 27 in a run-off election.
Tsvangirai said that members of his campaign advance party heading for the rally location were told that if they proceeded, the police could not guarantee their security as the military controlled the district. This came amid reports that Zimbabwean army officers are calling civilians to political meetings at which they are being instructed to vote for Mr. Mugabe.
"That must be discouraged, they are opening up the military to being involved in politics, which is dangerous for our democracy," Tsvangirai continued. "It's tantamount to a military coup, and I think that in Africa today, one of the most condemned actions is a military coup, because it undermines democratic development. So I think that's the most dangerous development that's happening in this country."
VOA broadcasts 19 hours a week to Zimbabwe in Shona, English and Ndebele. Visit VOA's web site at www.VOANews.com for more information.
The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts more than 1,250 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 115 million people. Programs are produced in 45 languages.
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