The army is in the eye of a storm over perceived unprofessionalism, sparking calls for security sector reform and such utterances by Nyikayaramba may see Zanu PF and the military emerging with eggs on their collective faces.
President Robert Mugabe has been at the forefront of defending the army, claiming it was professional and would not brook any calls for reform, but Nyikayaramba might have given proponents for the reorganisation of the army the right ammunition.
Critics have claimed that the army had too much of a say in governance and the most revealing statements by Nyikayaramba were that an election should be held this year, which Mugabe would win.
Giving odd justifications for the holding of an election this year, Nyikayaramba said the army was not receiving enough medicines, rations and there were now threats of a mutiny.
He also did not reveal why he claimed Zanu PF would win the elections, but maintained that Mugabe, whom he described as a father figure, would win the polls.
On Friday senior Zanu PF officials declined to comment on the matter, while the army spokesperson asked for questions in writing.
“Ask the person who spoke, not me,” Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa said before hanging up.
“I am not interested in that issue,” Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba said. “It’s that issue and the prime minister’s issue I am not interested in.”
Charamba was probably referring to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s utterances last week, challenging Mugabe to come clean on allegations of violence.
Zanu PF chairman, Simon Khaya-Moyo also declined comment claiming that he had not seen or heard of Nyikayaramba’s comments.
The army has been accused of dabbling in politics and being the bedrock of Mugabe’s stay in power.
Questions of the army’s involvement in governance reached a zenith in 2002, when the defence forces claimed they would not salute anyone without the armed struggle background.
Observers described this as calculated to thwart Tsvangirai, who many claimed was a favourite to win the elections.
In 2008 the defence forces were at it again, reiterating that they would not back anyone who did not share their ideals.
Tsvangirai’s MDC-T party yesterday issued a statement, claiming Nyikayaramba’s statements were a “clear admission by the junta that it has unlawfully and unconstitutionally taken over the running of affairs of Zimbabwe”.
The party said without any security sector reforms, any election would be a farce and a declaration of war on the citizens of Zimbabwe.
Nyikayaramba’s utterances likely to further SADC interest in Zim
The party insiders said Zanu PF was stung by the utterances and was working on a way to airbrush Nyikayaramba’s statements.
“There is nothing new about what he said,” an insider said. “But the timing could not be any worse.”
The Southern African Development Community (Sadc) mediation team has suggested that military reform should be priority, a suggestion shot down by Zanu PF.
With a meeting to discuss the challenges facing Zimbabwe due in South Africa in a fortnight, security sector reform is likely to feature prominently.