Recent utterances by Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Constantine Chiwenga, that the military cannot be “wished away” from civilian politics, are not only a constitutional violation on military neutrality, but also borders on mischief-making.
SUNDAY OPINION BY PHIL BARE
Addressing delegates at the ZDF health conference in Victoria Falls last month, Chiwenga argued that infighting in Zanu PF was a passing phase.
He said, “You can’t wish us away because we brought independence asi takasiya zvakadaro [we left it like that]. This is the only country in the world where you have never seen military intervention, interfering with civilian rule.”
By choosing to meddle with domestic politics, our military stands accused of dereliction of its sole mandate of securing our borders and protecting us from external threats.
The public’s trust in the military has long evaporated because of political interference which spans over three decades. Our history is replete with episodes of military interference and manipulation.
It is quite depressing to note that this is the same Chiwenga who enraged the public with his sycophantic announcement just prior to the March 2008 elections that the army, “…will not support any other candidate than Robert Mugabe, who has sacrificed a lot for the country.”
When interrogated further by a reporter who questioned the constitutionality of army involvement in politics, Chiwenga rebuked him saying: “Are you mad? What is wrong with the army supporting the President against the election of sell-outs?”
Subsequent to his fatwa, the month of March 2008 saw the wrath of the military ruthlessly unleashed on the defenceless public coercing them to vote for Zanu PF.
Belated attempts by Chiwenga to sanitise the reputation of the small elite camp in the military which has always been the guardian of Zanu PF hegemony are ludicrous and an insult to the same civilian population that has suffered tales of horror, grief and fear, all because of excessive interference by the military in our domestic politics. It’s a military that has too much autonomy over our lives.
While the majority of our men and women in uniform have always remained disciplined and professional, it is no secret that the misfortunes of the ordinary Zimbabwean today have their origins from partisan elite in charge of the security apparatuses — the secret men behind Mugabe’s.
The elite in the military is the embodiment of institutionalisation of the military’s influence over Zimbabwean politics. Every Zimbabwean clearly knows who is responsible for this subversion of democracy and the ultimate shaming of contemporary Zimbabwe.
Where is their pride considering that the economy is in tatters and every other institution that was once an embodiment of national pride and promise has collapsed or is collapsing under their watch? The heart-wrenching intellectual decay at the University of Zimbabwe serves as a glaring example. Their concern for Zimbabwe’s posterity is marginal.
We are therefore shocked by Chiwenga’s inability to assess the situation correctly, unless if it is deliberate. When you look at the magnitude of the suffering today, it is as if the country is leaderless. Why is that? Simple! The military propped up the dictatorship.
We now find it ironic that the very same men who were complicit in making it treasonous to talk about Mugabe’s succession are now distancing themselves from the monster they created.
Zanu PF and the military establishment have always been inseparable. We can only conclude that it’s a honeymoon that is now coming to an end. This is nothing more than managing their exit from Zanu PF which has become too toxic to continue propping up.
Unfortunately, this factious and fractious Zanu PF can no longer guarantee the safety of their power priviledges and status as well as the protection of their wealth and economic interests. In addition, they want to monopolise credit for liberating this country yet there are hundreds of thousands of war veterans, war collaborators and the general public that fought or contributed immensely during the war. Such vain talk cannot go unchallenged.
Zimbabwe was brought about by many people’s sacrifices, who should also equally enjoy the benefits of a liberated Zimbabwe, not just a few harbouring such sentiments of entitlement.
Oftentimes we warned them that Zanu PF policies were suicidal. Now they have come back to bite all of us including the ordinary civil servant in the military.
It’s sad that the government is so broke that they can’t decently and routinely pay our hardworking soldiers in the barracks across the country.
Our call has always been unambiguous, but again we implore Chiwenga: for once, return to the barracks where you belong.