Former Vice-President Joice Mujuru’s People First (PF) political movement has warned army officers and securocrats to stay clear of civilian political processes and making inflammatory statements that could trigger civil unrest.
In a statement on Sunday, Mujuru, through PF spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo said recent threats made against her by Commander of the Zimbabwe Presidential Guard Brigadier General Anselem Sanyatwe should not go unchallenged, as they grossly violated provisions of the Constitution.
Sanyatwe was quoted the Zimbabwe Independent two weeks ago threatening to unleash the army to annihilate Mujuru and her yet to be launched party.
“The statement, allegedly made by Brig Gen Sanyatwe, blatantly contravenes sections 208, 211 and 218 of the national Constitution, which define the security service including the Defence Forces.”
Sanyatwe’s threats came at a time Mujuru and main opposition MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai were reportedly plotting to combine forces ahead of the 2018 elections.
According to section 211, “the Defence Forces must respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all persons and be non-partisan, national in character, patriotic, professional and subordinate to civilians as established in the Constitution”.
Section 208 also prohibits serving security personnel from conducting themselves in a partisan manner.
Opposition parties and civic society have always accused the military of propping up Zanu (PF) using illegal means.
In 2008, the army was accused of leading a violent campaign on behalf of Zanu PF that left over 300 opposition activists dead and thousands internally displaced.
“We are surprised that our leader, Mujuru, was a target of Sanyatwe’s reckless and unconstitutional threats when she has not made any statement that could be regarded as subversive or that could be construed as posing any threat to national security, which Sanyatwe purports to be safe-guarding through his reported statement,” Gumbo said.
“It comes to us as a serious concern that the army is delving into succession politics in the country when, in our view, succession is decided by people during elections.
“What is now more worrying is the involvement of the army in partisan campaigns for one political party. We believe it is necessary that political parties of any persuasion should be allowed to exercise their legitimate right to be voted for by the people of Zimbabwe even if it results in the replacement of the incumbent president.”
Gumbo said Sanyatwe’s utterances can cause animosity between members of political parties and the army and have a potential of causing civil unrest.
He said undermining civilian political rights has grave consequences, as had been seen in other countries.
“We are also saddened to realise that some of these army commanders tend to forget they will retire, at some point, and that there is a future where they will lead civilian lives in which they are supposed to enjoy the same civil and political liberties that they are unconstitutionally undermining today.”
Mujuru is yet to officially launch her PF party, although she has already unveiled the party’s policy document.
The political movement comprises of former Zanu PF officials axed from the ruling party on allegations of plotting to oust President Robert Mugabe.
A number of senior army officials have in the past pronounced their support for Mugabe and vowed not to salute anyone without liberation war credentials.