By Gideon Chitanga and Trust Matsilele
Once again the military- security –police complex is interfering with a purely civilian and political process which should be above it. In a democracy the military should account to civilian elected authority without arrogating itself such powers as should be accountably and legitimately enjoyed by the politicians without otherwise subverting the country’s national laws. In the contemporary situation in the country, the military as all other organs of the state is governed by the current constitution as amended to embrace the inclusive government.
By summoning Mangwana and other Zanu (PF) stalwarts leading the Copac process, Chiwenga and other military chefs are undermining a legitimate civil process which is way above their mandate in terms of the constitution, intellect, grasp in terms of their professional orientation and a direct violation and assault on democratic ethos of our country. It is painful that those who should be at the forefront of proudly defending the national interest are now in the habit of subverting it for selfish partisan and personal interest. Zimbabweans should never again allow their wishes to be subverted.
The call by the service chiefs to be briefed by a faction of COPAC is a threat to national security tantamount to a coup. Indeed any factional and partisan actions by the military that impinges on legitimate civilian authority are illegal and unconstitutional hence they should be robustly resisted by any means possible. We say so because it is evident that the military is acting like the super organgovernment institution subjecting the citizens to de facto military rule with President Mugabe as its legitimating civilian face. The call by the military to be briefed by a faction of COPAC should worry the MDCs, civil society, Zanu (PF) and all democracy loving Zimbabweans. The inversion of internal Zanu (PF) politics and national politics in Zimbabwe by the military can be a pervasive cancer which is an albatross upon which democracy may totally fail in Zimbabwe. We want to warn those in Zanu (PF) who are part to these plots, the fence sitters and those who complain quietly that they have an interest in re-asserting their political authority as much as those in other political parties.
The history of military regimes show that once the military taste political power, it tends to behave like a vampire which has tasted blood. The more we allow the rogue political elements in military fatigues to dabble in party and factional politics the more we complicate our country’s political transition. All politicians have an interest in legitimate democratic electoral politics since it’s the only way they can contest for political space and office in the public arena. Political players in Zanu (PF) as those in other parties should cringe at the thought of those who wield military technology and resources dictatorially imposing their will on the national course of events. We call upon everyone to realise that the call for reforms in the security sector is crucial in as far as maintaining peace and stability in the country is concerned, at least in the long term if not in the short run.
For Zanu (PF) supporters and leaders, unchecked maneuvers by factional elements in the military may seal the fate of succession politics by ensuring the ascension of the Mnangagwa faction, thus certifying an alliance and collaboration of the military in party and national politics. In practice this means, the military will be the chief power broker in Zimbabwe’s politics with a civilian president who only acts as window dressing. With the prospect of having the cold but terrifying character of Mnangagwa at the helm of the state, we can only imagine a blitzkrieg of political purges internally within Zanu (PF) and intensified potentially bloody political contestation as Zimbabweans will surely continue to fight for democracy. The nature of the military-security functions which are mostly secretive, coercive , suspicious especially in the blood tainted short history of Zanu (PF’s) reign in Zimbabwe are enough to make every concerned citizen very worried at the prospect of any involvement of the military in national politics.
More importantly, should Copac be seen to be accountable to the military and who is the military in the Zimbabwean context? Is the military usurping the role of the principals as constituted in the GPA? If so, is it not another subversive act, a de jure coup, the biggest crime against the state which should see the culprits incarcerated. Is it not the case that the military should be accountable to civilian state authority , should we not see this case for evidence that more than at any point in time the military must be reformed as a matter of urgency if Zimbabwe is to have free and fair elections that will bring a legitimate government and ensure peace and prosperity.
Chiwenga, at the centre of the call for the briefing with Copac leaders is known to be harbouring presidential ambitions and to be a leader of the military grouping with political interests and massive clandestine business interests and ventures in the country. He is also a member of the Joint Operations Command (JOC) composed of the heads of prison services, air force, ZNA, Intelligence, defense Minister and chaired by President Mugabe. The JOC although instituted as a formal policy think tank for the military has lately informally been operationalized at the behest of Zanu (PF) for all kinds of otherwise illegal partisan political machinations synonymous with that party’s political crudity and brutality. In the past few months Chiwenga has been linked closely to the Mnangagwa faction in Zanu (PF’s) subtle but extremely volatile and fluid succession plotting. Mnangagwa is understood to be bracing himself to succeed President Mugabe.
The role of the military in the country’s national politics remains vexatious. More fundamentally, it questions the role of the military in a democracy, and in particular whether Zimbabwe is under a quasi-military regime or a democratic elected government. In theory the country is under the administration of the inclusive government which can be described as semi-democratically constituted as it brought back the loosing ZANU PF factions into government. The Inclusive Government is comprised of rival parties who should be negotiating new rules of political contestation, including the role of the military in national politics, after the country suffered an electoral cul-de-sac in 2008. In the current circumstances, the military continue to act in a manner that consistently erodes political democratic institutionalization. The national constitution is supreme that a faction however powerful should not be allowed to temper with the potential bedrock and foundation for our aspirations for democracy.
It is important to understand that the military was implicated in the widespread political violence that swept the country in March and June 2008 polls while the JOC itself, Jonathan Moyo (advising Zanu (PF) before being formally re-admitted to that party) and defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa were implicated in fiddling and manipulating the 2008 Presidential election results which were otherwise won by the MDC-T and Morgan Tsvangirai. Some Zanu (PF) and military elites have amassed wealth they never imagined to ever accumulate in their lifetime at the expense of the loyal rank and file cadres in the army, police, CIO, prison service and ordinary Zimbabweans. We can speculate whether the securocrats see the national constitution in the making as undermining their current privileged status. Do the military cohorts in alliance with the Mnangagwa faction see the new constitution as a potential threat to their collective political and economic interests? While their intention is to retain and gain more political power, how do we position President Mugabe in this matrix? Is he an ailing, vulnerable, possibly manipulated frail geriatric who has lost control or a Willy old “fox” in total control of the government and the military?
Zanu (PF) has operated like a quasi- military outfit. Given the contested transitional politics post-2000 such configuration becomes problematic. Democratic forces can not allow the military faction in ZANU-PF to contaminate the democratic aspirations of Zimbabweans. Just as much as Zimbabweans confronted Robert Mugabe and his self-enriching acolytes for subverting their will by rigging the 2008 polls that were won by the MDC-T, pushing them into a coalition government they never imagined, likewise Zimbabweans should stand up in defense of their views which they gave to the constitutional commissioners to ensure that the same subversive dark underhand does not sabotage them.
We urge the two MDCs to expose the political elements in the military who continue to masquerade as professionals while collaborating with Zanu (PF) to scuttle the democratic process. The MDCs are in government as a result of the GPA, but crucially the election result of 2008. More than the GPA itself, we remind the MDC-T officials and their side of government that they draw their legitimacy from their victory in the 2008 polls. We would like to underline that their rhetoric and actions both in the party and government should draw emphasis on the fact of this electoral victory. It must be the song upon which the prospects for democracy should be sustained. It is the MDC-T’s uncontested victory in March 2008 parliamentary elections that otherwise legitimizes the continued existence of Zanu (PF) in state institutions through the inclusive government. Instead of continuously disrupting a democratic constitutional process just like they have previously stole elections and committed heinous acts of violence, both Zanu (PF) actors and their supporting military elements must appreciate and understand that their craving for power could be a recipe for serious conflict and instability in the country hence the demand for them to respect government institutions and processes.