By Prince Tongogara
President Robert Mugabe on January 12 this year deployed an unquantified contigent of Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) comprising elite commandos and intelligence servicemen to offer VVIP security at the ongoing Afcon finals in Equatorial Guinea. The deployment was done in a hush that may imply it may be unconstitutional from literal reading of the new constitution.
ZDF spokesman Colonel Everson Mugwisi confirmed the deployment. “Zimbabwe has deployed a contigent comprising ZDF members, the Zimbabwe Republic Police and other members of the security services,” he said.
Mugwisi added, “The deployment was at the invitation of Equatorial Guinea government. The deployment will be sponsored by Equatorial Guinea. The purpose of the deployment is to provide VVIP protection during Afcon.”
Mugwisi’s confirmation while it was an attempt at transparency and accountability does not provide much information to the citizens. He did not say how many officers were deployed? What equipment did they take with them? How much was paid to the Zimbabwe government? Where the money did go? And more importantly, can the ZDF be hired out to provide VVIP security?
The deployment may fall short of the constitutional requirement set out in s214 of the Constitution which says, “The President must cause Parliament to be informed, promptly and in appropriate detail the reasons for their deployment’
Zimbabwe’s Parliament is currently in recess and was therefore not informed. Mugabe did not call the House to be informed of this important national matter.
Secondly and more importantly the Constitution in s213 (3) sets four conditions in which the defence forces may be deployed in a foreign country:
1. On peacekeeping operations under the auspices of the United Nations or any other international or regional organisation which Zimbabwe is a member:-
2. To defend the territorial integrity of a foreign country
3. In fulfillment of an international commitment or
4. In defence of Zimbabwe’s national security or national interests.
The deployment to Equatorial Guinea does not seem to meet any of the four conditions set out in the constitution. If it was to fulfill international commitment then that commitment is not publicly known to have been ratified by Zimbabwe’s legislature.
It may therefore be argued that the deployment was unconstitutional and may have been done in pursuit of personal and private interests given historical facts on the ground.particularly Zimbabwe’s interception of arms destined for the West African country and the strong friendship that followed.
In the past, ZDF has been deployed to several UN missions in Africa and Europe. These missions include Somalia, Liberia and Yugoslavia. Zimbabwe also deployed its defence forces in Mozambique from the late 1980s to early 1990s to deal with the Renamo bandits who had become a threat to the country’s economic interests particularly the Beira corridor which gives the country access to its closest port.
Zimbabwe in 1998 also deployed forces to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to protect Laurent Kabila who had ousted dictator Mobuto Seseseko in a military campaign. The deployment then was done under the auspices of Sadc and had the support of Namibia and Angola.
Considering all the aforementioned facts, it is plausible the Constitution may have been breached and, curiously, the opposition parties and the civil society organisations have remained stone silent. Is it not time that Mugabe and Zanu Pf should be made to account on use of state resources. For now the constitution remains a paper tiger no one is ready to fight in its defence barely two years after it adoption. Many of the Constitution’s provisions like devolution are yet to be implemented while several pieces of laws still remain inconsistent with the constitution as the government drags its feet in implementing realignment of laws to the country’s supreme charter.