Vice-President Emerson Mnangagwa recently announced intentions to expand the command agriculture scheme into “command mining”, “command health” and even “command education”.
Tamuka C. Chirimambowa & Tinashe L. Chimedza
This penchant for unchecked imperial presidentialism presents a threat to our constitutional republic. Already, in Tanzania the early celebration of President John Magufuli’s bulldozing and command leadership style, is fulfilling Lord Acton’s warning: “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.
Therefore, clamours for a command economy are misplaced and in this piece, we argue that the “command economy” is a silent coup being orchestrated by a Zanu PF faction in alliance with sections of the securocrats as a strategy to circumvent their party constitution and our Constitution.
The “command economy” is Zimbabwe’s obscure “devil on the cross”’ and needs to be rejected. The backing of “command economy” by Chris Mutsvangwa, at a recent press conference is ill-informed and will not lead to the construction of skyscrapers or children seeing a crane in their lifetime as he chided G40, but lead us to grotesque authoritarianism.
Statistics provided by Agriculture minister Joseph Made are in direct conflict with Mnangagwa’s pronouncement.
Jonathan Moyo has already had his field day, exposing the deceit behind the “$500 million and myth of 400 000 hectares” and the architects of the command have grudgingly started to concede. So goes another half a billion down the throats of these networked elites and as Moyo screamed: “civil matters command is an oxymoron, a no-starter”.
But we can leave them battling their factional roulettes, it is thick with human hecatombs once the palace goes comatose. Our concern is the implication of the logic of all things “command” as that will trigger a descend into militarism and this poses grave consequences for our pernicious walk to a democratic polity.
The command economy will place into the hands of the security network enormous political and economic power through bureaucratic usurpation and the net effect is to render irrelevant if not totally displace the constitutional republic.
A country in which the security establishment is the centrepiece of economic production is nothing short of a military dictatorship with a civilian face. The question is to whom and how will the men and few women in uniform with “artillery” and “grenades” account? In the now emptied Chiadzwa diamond fields, a parliamentary committee was barred entry under the guise of “national security”. This reveals the actual operation of a “command economy”.
The shadowy state and its Goliathan logic
Zimbabwe is already being run as a surveillance state in which the security apparatuses are embedded in the political processes.
Recently the government appointed a former director in the Office of the President to run Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz).
The evidence of everyday surveillance by the state is in the number of roadblocks all over the country. Martin Rupiya, a former army colonel and scholar, has pointed out how every facet of Zimbabwe’s political landscape has been turned into an “operational military zone”.
From the elections body, parastatals, educational institutions, industry and recently the institution of the chief justice, attempts have been made to staff these state bodies with military and intelligence personnel.
Moyo critiqued this militarism when he pointed to the worrying trend of “government by operations” like Operation Murambatsvina, Operation Maguta/Sisuthi, Operation Garikai and Operation Dzikisai Madhishi and Operation Mavhotera Papi? Economic transformation cannot be achieved through sheer militarism.
History and the priest in a witch’s garb
Zimbabwe’s nationalistic elite sound like the proverbial priest who goes around the village proudly preaching the evil of witchcraft to bemused villagers while clad in witch garbs and riding a hyena in broad daylight. But to understand how this state of affairs evolved and how post-colonial Zimbabwe ended with a state apparatus designed for a gulag, we have to have a historical perspective.
History has very long shadows which often affect contemporary and future political contestations. The Zimbabwean state evolved from the Rhodesian settler state, and that settler-state was a “war state”, meaning that it’s state apparatuses was designed to defend and go on the offensive to preserve the white racist regime.
The Rhodesian settler-state evolved from the colonial garrison of Rhodes’ British South Africa Company, which basically meant the urban town emerged as a military laager: hence the names Fort Victoria, Fort Charter, Fort Salisbury and so on.
That sense of the state as a military-intelligence gathering machinery spilled over into the post-colony and the so-called revolutionary nationalists have perfected it as claimed by Blessing-Miles Tendi in his 2016 article on “state intelligence and politics of succession” in Zimbabwe.
Anxious nationalist elites mobilising the shadowy state
The anxious nationalist elites have been keen to mobilise state security to defend, not the republic, but their plundering orgies. The so-called radical nationalists, who when they are caught with their hands pilfering sick people’s health insurance funds, they scream “wolf”, pointing to “little boys or students” and “imperialists” trying to hoodwink the citizen, must be censured.
These little boys or students are Zimbabwean citizens by birth and as citizens they need answers from the rulers.
In 2013 Zimbabweans voted overwhelmingly for a new constitution which establishes the rules of the game — we are a republic, a constitutional democracy.
The people’s power rests in the National Assembly as elected by the citizens. Not in barracks. The raucous over the appointment of the chief justice betrays the heart of the matter, which is to usurp the constitution through dubious litigation and remove the citizen from the matrix of appointing the chief justice.
The foundational principle in our constitution is such that the people’s power is exercised by elected individuals and the National Assembly is where such democratic deliberations happen.
The National Assembly debates are public and the reason is that the public can keep track of how they are being governed and this is crucial: in theory when citizens are not happy they can vote the government out in an election, meaning the honour to govern is only in as far as the people have consented to the rule.
Importantly, the National Assembly debates, budgets, authorises the executive to appropriate and spent revenue. In theory, any appropriation and expenditure not authorised by the National Assembly is unlawful.
The political convulsions which have intensified with the advent of strong opposition has revealed this tendency by the ruling elite to rely on military might. Since 2000 some men and women in uniform have discovered that the political elite need them. In return, the ruling elites have promoted those officers into various high profile government and state enterprises positions.
The talk about everything being turned into “command logic” is an obscure “devil on the cross” meant to entrench a military state via a bureaucratic coup de tat.
Half a century ago, apprehensive about the encroaching power of what he called the “‘military-industrial complex”, President Dwight Eisenhower (1961), sounded the fore-warning:
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”
Zimbabwe needs an agile, modern and well-equipped army. It is a constitutional obligation. However, once the army is equipped and the soldier trained, the guns, the bayonets, the gunpowder and their holders must stay in the barrack because they are the defenders of the republic. The “command economy” places the security apparatus at the pinnacle of developmental policy and displaces the foundational statutes of this country, which is that the people must govern through elected representatives.
Tamuka C Chirimambowa and Tinashe L Chimedza are the co-founders of the Institute of Public Affairs in Zimbabwe and they publish Gravitas, a bi-monthly journal of critical articles on public policy and governance in Zimbabwe (contact: email@example.com)