Coup Fears As Generals Up The Political Stakes

The MDC formations want certain members of President Mugabe’s securocrats retired, including police commissioner general Augustine Chihuri, in a bid to stop state security agents dabbling in politics.

In the wake of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP)’s perceived partisan policing, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s formation of the MDC has repeatedly reiterated calls for Chihuri to be fired from his job.

Recently police stood akimbo in Mudzi, Mashonaland East as marauding Zanu (PF) thugs stoned to death an MDC official Cephas Magura.

Prior to this cold-blooded murder, there have been numerous incidents of the armed forces complicity in the ill-treatment of perceived MDC officials and supporters, hence the clamour for wide-sweeping security sector reforms.

But Mugabe and Zanu (PF) spin-doctors have been voluminous and adamant that security sector reforms are part of Western governments’ political machinations to remove President Mugabe from power.

Critics of Zanu (PF) have been shocked by the latest utterances attributed to army generals, particularly Major-General Martin Chedondo, a perceived President Mugabe die-hard, who said last week soldiers should support Zanu (PF).

Addressing 3000 troops from Two Brigade undergoing a battlefield training exercise in Mutoko recently, Chedondo said soldiers should be allowed to be involved in partisan party politics and to support Zanu (PF).

The general also slammed the constitution-making process being written under the Parliament Constitution Select Committee.

The military’s shenanigans are in fact sending shivers down the spines of neutrals as it emerges certain generals and other members of the securocrats are directly interfering in grassroots politics.

They are claims, which have not be publicly denied, that some high-ranking members of the military want to be parcelled key posts in the on-going Zanu (PF) restructuring exercise in the provinces as they intend representing President Mugabe’s party in the next elections expected to bring closure to the troubled government of national unity.

There are also claims the army has taken over Zanu (PF) structures and was already campaigning for President Mugabe in a make-or-break election in which the veteran Zimbabwe politician is most likely to again battle with PM Tsvangirai.

Reports have been awash that Zanu (PF) has in fact appointed into its commissariat, retired Air Marshal Henry Muchena and former Central Intelligence Organisation director (internal) Sydney Nyanongo, to rejuvenate and strengthen its structures.

Critics say the military is upping the political stakes in an election President Mugabe is desperate to win at whatever cost against his stubborn nemesis Prime Minister Tsvangirai who outpolled him in the controversial 2008 presidential elections before winning the one-man presidential run-off; the premier boycotted citing state-sponsored violence.

PM Tsvangirai and his equally faction-riddled MDC accuse the military and other members of the national security forces of being complicit in the state-sponsored violence which the former opposition party claims killed about 500 of its supporters.

While it is agreed it is difficult to divorce the Zimbabwe National Army from Zanu (PF) or the then former PF ZAPU of the late Vice President Joshua Nkomo, due to their historic links during the war of liberation from colonial rule, neutrals fear the military’s involvement in Zanu (PF) internal politics could set a bad precedent not only in Zimbabwe but the entire Southern Africa.

Critics fear a coup could be in the making. They say in the event President Mugabe is trounced in the impending presidential race, what would stop the military men and women from taking the law into their own hands and stage a coup as has been the norm in other unstable African countries.

Psychology Maziwisa, a lawyer-turned political analyst, said:“This is unacceptable behavior from people who should be acting professionally at all times and who should be seen and heard to be apolitical and non-partisan,” said Maziwisa, adding that nowhere else would these acts of gross misconduct be tolerated.”

“In fact, in civilised societies, such people would have been asked to resign as a matter of course.  Yet in Zimbabwe we don’t even seem perturbed by this shameful display of partisanship and gross lack of professionalism. It’s a matter of deep national shame,” said.

“This kind of recklessness, and I say this with a very heavy heart, gives Zanu (PF) a bad name and shames us globally as a nation. President Mugabe as Commander-in-Chief along with general (Constantine) Chiwenga and (Defence minister Emmerson) Mnangagwa need to do something very fast about this intolerable misbehaviour in order not just to salvage the reputation of Zanu (PF) but also to save our international standing as a nation,” said Maziwisa.

Harare-based political analyst, Charles Mangongera, said the involvement of the military personnel particularly in Zanu (PF) internal politics, gave credence to calls for the urgent re-alignment of the country’s security sector despite flat opposition from President Mugabe and his revolutionary party.

“I think it is a clear indication that calls for security sector re-alignment by Zanu (PF) political opponents and other democratic actors are not misplaced,” said Mangongera.

“Their job is to defend the country’s constitution but not to draft it. What this shows us is that if we have an election under the current political dispensation the army and other security agents are likely to intervene the same way they did in 2008 and that election will be a sham,” said Mangongera.

Tapera Kapuya, Zimbabwean political analyst based in Australia, claimed there was a section of the army, which was in reality a militia wing of Zanu (PF), allegedly represented by people like major-general Chedondo.

“The army for them is essentially a blunt instrument for protecting and entrenching Zanu (PF) hegemony,” said Kapuya.

He added that these generals were clearly privy to the fact that Zanu (PF) was at its weakest and could not on its own political strength, maintain a hold on power, hence a military intervention to enforce President Mugabe’s rule.

“Their actions are as much directed at the opposition as it is on Zanu (PF) politicians. The military is basically saying it is beyond civilian control or oversight unless this is in its own interests or those of the militant section in Zanu (PF),” said Kapuya.

He said a key advice to the army was that the era of military coups or blunt engagements in civil-political matters was long gone. By further undermining civilian government, they were weakening the very sovereignty they claim to be defending.

He added: “What they are doing are legitimate grounds for the international community to intervene directly in our national affairs – at a huge risk to the generals personally as to the country severally.”

Critics say it will be folly to ignore the utterances of the military top brass. They say to all intents and purposes, the men and women in battle fatigues appear itching to storm out of the barracks and when push finally comes to shove, judging from latest and past utterances of a number of top army chiefs, they might indeed storm the streets.