ZIMBABWE – HARARE – Former Vice President Joice Mujuru has warned the country’s pro-Zanu PF securocrats to stop meddling in politics and civilian matters as that will lead to more chaos in the country.
This comes as yet another senior army official, this time the Commander of the Zimbabwe Presidential Guard, Brigadier-General Anselem Sanyatwe, has been quoted threatening to unleash violence on Mujuru and her allies come the much-awaited 2018 national elections.
Analysts have also long observed that the country’s military establishment is a vital cog in President Robert Mugabe’s iron grip on power, amid widespread agreement that securocrats will have a major say in Zanu’s fractious succession politics, as the nonagenarian reaches the end of his long tenure in power.
Reacting to Sanyatwe’s reported utterances yesterday, the spokesperson of the People First movement, Rugare Gumbo, said army generals needed to remember that they would not remain “untouchable forever” and that one day they would be made to account for their actions.
“As People First, we are disturbed that it is now over a week since the publication of Brig Gen Sanyatwe’s startling and cantankerous remarks, yet there has been no public rebuke by either senior commanders of the defence forces, or the Defence Forces Services Commission.
“We were shocked to learn that such a senior officer in the army could publicly call for the annihilation of former Vice President Joice Mujuru and her supporters just because of their legitimate political activities in search of a lasting solution to the challenges facing the country.
“The statement … blatantly contravenes Sections 208, 211 and 218 of the national constitution which define the security service including the defence forces.
“In terms of section 211, ‘the defence forces must respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all persons and be non-partisan, national in character, patriotic, professional and subordinate to civilians as established in the constitution.
“We are surprised that our leader, Dr Mujuru, was a target of Brig Gen Sanyatwe’s reckless and unconstitutional threats when she has not made any statement that could be regarded as subversive or that could be construed as posing any threat to national security which Sanyatwe purports to be safe-guarding through his reported statement,” the livid Gumbo said.
The liberation struggle stalwart and former minister of Economic Development also noted that the army was paid by public funds and should thus swear its allegiance to Zimbabwe and not to the post-congress Zanu PF.
“It comes to us as a serious concern that the army is delving into succession politics in the country when, in our view, succession is decided by people during elections.
“What is now more worrying is the involvement of the army in partisan campaigns for one political party. We believe it is necessary that political parties of any persuasion should be allowed to exercise their legitimate right to be voted for by the people of Zimbabwe even if it results in the replacement of the incumbent president.
“Statements, such as those attributed to Brig Gen Sanyatwe, create animosity between the public, who are members of these political parties, and the army personnel, some of whom live among the same people or are, sometimes, tenants of the same.
“Such animosity is inimical to the pursuit of peace and prosperity in the country,” Gumbo added.
On the eve of the 2002 presidential elections, the country’s military top-brass, then fronted by the late Defence Forces Commander Vitalis Zvinavashe, issued a chilling and televised statement that pointedly warned citizens against voting for anyone other than Mugabe.
“Let it be known that the highest office in the land is a straight jacket whose occupant is expected to observe the objectives of the liberation struggle.
“We will therefore not accept, let alone support or salute anyone with a different agenda that threatens the very existence of our sovereignty, our country and our people,” Zvinavashe said then in his widely-condemned statement.
Gumbo said it was clear that Zimbabwe’s army was still to adapt to modern military modus operandi, with senior military officials seemingly unaware that one day they would be made to account for their actions.
“We also believe that some senior army officials do not fully comprehend what happens continentally and internationally, nor fully understand cases such as those of Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, or Lesotho nearer home, where the army sought to undermine civilian political interests with devastating political consequences.
“What our army personnel should awaken to is the fact that coup d’états or removal of leaders by force are no longer fashionable because the people would resist such unconstitutional moves and ensure they control and decide how, and who should govern them.
“We are also saddened to realise that some of these army commanders tend to forget they will retire, at some point, and that there is a future where they will lead civilian lives in which they are supposed to enjoy the same civil and political liberties that they are unconstitutionally undermining today,” Gumbo said.