ZIMBABWE – Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi and Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) General Constantine Chiwenga this week failed to respond on what will happen to the Commander of the Zimbabwe Presidential Guard, Brigadier-General Anselem Sanyatwe, after his remarks threatening to unleash the army to tackle former vice-president Joice Mujuru and her People First movement.
Addressing 500 men and women under his command at 2 Presidential Guard base in Dzivaresekwa, Harare, on September 2 during his brief to mark the end of the year, Sanyatwe said professionalism should be put aside as the army prepares to confront Mujuru and her allies in the People First movement, who were purged in the aftermath of the Zanu PF acrimonious congress last December.
Sanyatwe said the army should be ready to fight Mujuru, whom he described as a “money-loving sell-out” to protect President Robert Mugabe.
This week the Zimbabwe Independent sought comment from Sekeramayi and Chiwenga as pressure mounts for the Ministry of Defence and the military to act on Sanyatwe.
When the Independent called Sekeramayi’s direct line on Wednesday, it was answered by his personal assistant who told the paper to hold the line while she consulted her boss. This was after the reporter introduced himself and told her that he was seeking a comment on what action the ministry was going to take, if at all, on Sanyatwe considering that his remarks violated the national constitution and Defence Act.
However, moments later the personal assistant came back to the phone and said unfortunately the minister had left the office and gone home. his mobile phone was ringing and not being answered since last week.
The Independent then called Chiwenga’s mobile phone to get a comment on the issue and the person who answered the phone asked the reporter to identify himself and state what he wanted.
After the reporter gave a brief introduction and said he wanted to find out if the military would take action against Sanyatwe. There was a long pause on the other side, so much that the reporter thought they had been cut off, only to be told: “Zvino uchaita sei, aChiwenga vacho havapo (what are you going to do now since Chiwenga is not available)”, before the line went dead.
However, there are growing calls from other commanders who feel Sanyatwe should be disciplined for dabbling in politics.
“I have always said anyone that wants to dabble in politics should leave the army and join politics. There is no room for politics in the military; we just have to be professional and remember that as the military, we are there to serve the government in power,” said a senior army commander.
“What we were made to understand was that he addressed people under his command, the way we usually speak to our troops and there was nothing political in what he said. But now that you are saying he sloganeered during the address, then that is definitely a violation of the Defence Act and national constitution, and for that he should be disciplined.
“Such statements give the military a bad name and we should not tolerate such things if we are to remain professional.”
to show that he is under pressure, Sanyatwe this week desperately tried to refute reports that he chanted slogans and urged soldiers to crush Mujuru and her People First movement.
He was quoted in a local state-controlled daily saying: “Nothing of that sort was ever said. When, as military leaders, we address our officers, we operate within the strict confines of military rule books. It is not like we are at a rally. We do not address rallies.”
However, evidence clearly shows he made political remarks and threats. Sanyatwe’s address, in which he dabbled in the political affairs of the country, is in blatant contravention of sections 208, 211 and 218 of the national constitution which define the security services, including the ZDF. The ZDF are expected to be non-partisan and professional.