HomeEditorial CommentWill people be able to free themselves from the clutches of the...

Will people be able to free themselves from the clutches of the military?

The structure and culture of an institution or indeed a country, follows its strategy and vision. The tools you choose to use must be suited for and in sync with your purpose and the goals you set out to achieve.

By Mathabelazitha/Anvil

A country committed to popular democracy, public participation and national consensus building as its desired governance aspiration cannot then pick up the tools, techniques and leadership style associated with dictatorship and somehow hope to attain democratic goals.

Leadership style in the military is not contestable. It is known for a singular point of centralised power and programmed, robotic consumers and implementers of hierarchical instructions and orders. In a war, decisions must be made on the spot and followed religiously or we are all dead. Clearly, a dictatorial leadership arrangement associated with the military is good and well-suited for its war-like context.

A purporting democracy, pledging opening space for increased participation of all citizens with rights enshrined in a binding national Constitution cannot revert to military intervention either to solve its internal conflicts or less so to run its affairs and hope to breath free.

l About reforms. This is a valid legitimate and urgent item on the people’s agenda. Do the people have a reasonable expectation that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government can commit to immediately aligning legislation to the constitution, to electoral reforms and to creating an environment for free and fair elections? The history, the inaugural speech, the body language and the entire military fragment and culture of this leadership suggests we can forget about any such reforms. Do the people have the leadership in civil society or in the political formations existing with the requisite understanding, skill, willingness, appetite and inner fire to mobilise society and push government in the streets, in the media and in the courts to effect the necessary reforms? With tired and timid opposition leaders, themselves stampeding to be part of the president’s machinery and doing their best to look good to the omnipotent military, the pointers to a Saro Wiwa are not encouraging at all.

The gulf that still obtains between the new (now ageing) constitution and various operational, but obsolete pieces of legislation around our daily lives suggests we have neither the capacity nor the leadership to challenge routine and blatant un-constitutionalism in Zimbabwe. The reforms agenda for the people requires a distinct deliberate and robust framework of organisation and implementation. The investment of resources, time and leadership we have experienced in such programmes as HIV and Aids awareness, advocacy and civic education needs to be duplicated in similar vigour on the constitution, constitutionalism and effective citizenship by parties and advocacy organisations. This requires effective reforms, leadership.

The political voids that are opening courtesy of the cool coup must be met with an unmistakable, unanimous loud voice of the people. The people must accompany every new appointment and replacement of the Rita Makaraus of this world. That they will be replaced by similarly partisan loyalists of the new regime or even by outright military personnel is obvious — but every means available to challenge patronage and continued capture of state by the ruling party needs to take pride of place of the agenda of the people now!

l Clear, inclusive roadmap to credible elections — the supremely intelligent juggernaut of Zanu PF was thus able to craft and implement such a beautiful coup and managed to hoodwink not just all 13 million of us, but Sadc, AU and the whole world that this was a plausible legit change-over, we can be assured that Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, Sadc and AU will soon be applauding another beautiful electoral coup-but-not-coup come 2018. Can we sincerely hope that a military government can conjure the patience and political world to sincerely partner civil society and willingly open itself up to democratic scrutiny and the true test of free and fair citizen choice? The very nature and culture of military leadership style is known for centralised power and extreme annoyance with consensus building and public participation. It is the antithesis of the democratic governance. Where is the source of the people’s hope in this regard?

l Delinking the military from civilian mandates. This is no small ask. Both the supremacy of the military and the entrenched dominance of Zanu PF since 1980 are supremely secured on the long-standing intimate marriage of those two and the unfettered access to every lever of government and every resource. If that fundamental twin-tower of our politics and governance has ever been in doubt, November 2017 pronounced and entrenched in the boldest terms yet. It has been amply demonstrated, effective political change can only be effective by, and at the behest of the military; it is very difficult to imagine how reforms distinctly undesirable to the military can ever be effected by the same military. Their link to civilian mandate is their very life line.

Do the people realise our people power or have the willpower and collective stamina to gunner legal advocacy wherewithal to de-couple the age old devil twin towers? This, soon after the military played the people’s hero and presented what looks like the best Christmas present any citizen has received in 37 years, are the political formations out there willing to sober up, roll up their sleeves and thank the soldiers, but shove them off the civilian lounge? The people’s cause needs courageous informed constitutional leadership. In their present form, structure and content, our institutions of the state are utterly incapable of reforming themselves. On the other hand, those of our institutions expected to champion security reforms are similarly ill-suited to execute the task, yet this is the biggest agenda of the people.

l Redress of victims of political violence — the most fundamental building block for restoring the dignity and robustness of our nationhood and rallying the angry and dispersed energies of our country, is without doubt in sincerely healing the hurting soul of the nation, building national cohesion on the basis of facing with frankness our sad past, allowing reconciliation to grow from an honest national conversation. I consider it a leadership decision of the very toughest moral champions that while difficult, is both inevitable and low-hanging fruit. Whether a government that itself comprises a significant number of known and suspected perpetrators of such violence has the capacity to look itself in the mirror and institute process that may compromise its standing, is a difficult question. But the people must now more than ever demand to see Itai Dzamara, Patrick Nabanyama and all the open mass graves for assurance that we will never meet moments of madness again.

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