Tinashe Sambiri|Zimbabwe Election Advocacy Trust( ZEAT) has challenged the Zimbabwe Defence Forces to stay out of the country’s political dynamics.
In a statement, ZEAT accused the Zimbabwe Defence Forces of trampling on constitutional principles that spell out the need for professionalism.
In previous elections, military men declared they would not salute anybody without liberation war credentials.
See ZEAT statement below:
AN ARMY FOR THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE, OUR DREAM.
On the 30th of July 2018 historic elections were held in Zimbabwe.
The elections were harmonised that is Presidential, Parliamentary and Council at the same time. As has always been the case with the past elections since 2000 after the formation of the MDC the elections were a sham.
Massive rigging was reported and the fact that The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission released 3 sets of results in the Presidential elections bears crystal clear testimony. As a result of the alleged rigging 2 days after the plebiscite the people took to the streets on 1 August to demonstrate against the sham election.
On this day the people of Zimbabwe and the world were shell-shocked to see soldiers all over the streets and to hear the noise of guns filling the streets. The question of who deployed the army when the country had no president is an issue for another day.
The August 1 post-election shootings saw 6 people dead. Soldiers and anti-riot police were implicated in the deaths. It must be noted that the shootings necessitated the creation of the Monthlanhle Commission which investigated the use of force by security forces to clamp down on post-election protesters.
At the commission the world was shocked to hear six Generals including Anslem Sanyatwe and Phillip Valerio Sibanda denying the involvement of the army in the shootings. The people will remember Sanyatwe because of his ill thought statement that the gun was not pointed at the people but at a 45 degree angle in the air.
The theatrics of the army generals was just but a joke. They even further went on to say that some people broke into army baracks and stole uniforms. For them it was some outlaws who shot at the people and not the military.
It must be noted that the 1 August 2018 event was not the first event the millitary was involved in elections. Zimbabweans will remember the role of the military in the 2008 elections. When harmonised elections were held on 29 March 2008 Morgan Richard Tsvangirai won with 48%. Robert Gabriel Mugabe had 43%.
When Tsvangirai failed to garner a majority vote a presidential run-off had to be held. The presidential run-off was set for 27 June 2008. Robert Mugabe’s campaign prior to the sham was taken over by the military. The headquarters of ZANU PF moved to KGIV. It was the military that was directing the operations of the election which was not an election but brutal war.
The ailing ZANU PF machine which was in the intensive care unit was reinforced by the military. They breath some life into the mortuary ridden ZANU PF comatose and cadavar. The military involvement in the June 2008 elections saw more than 550 peoplw losing their lives. The tortures, kidnappings and brutal killings are still in the minds of many who lost their relatives during this era. It goes without saying that it was during this era that people like Tonderai Ndira and Better Chokururama as well as many more met their last fate at the hands of the ZANU PF militia which was led by the military.
Many would remember how the soldiers would move around with Mitsubishi Trytons tormenting people. It was as a result of that why the Tryton never became a popular car in Zimbabwe regardless of it being a nice car with potential to even outshine the Nissan Hardbody and Isuzu KBs.
As a result of the gruesome acts carried by the authors of the short sleeve, long sleeve it is not surprising that when the majority of Zimbabweans see one of the few doldering remaining Trytons tears will ooze down their eyes. Following his humiliating defeat to Morgan Tsvangirai in the first round on 29 March 2008 rigged elections Robert Gabriel Mugabe wanted to concede defeat and handover power to Tsvangirai. He was not allowed to do so by the military who held him at gunpoint and threatened to him out if he hand over power. The military was all over the country as they were campaigning for Mugabe. Those in Gokwe Mapfungautsi will remember how one Major Ponde terrorised and tormented the people in the area.
The army even had the bravado and tenacity to tell the people during meetings in Karoi Mashonaland West that, “if you vote for MDC in the presidential runoff, you have seen the bullets, we have enough for each one of you, so beware.” The involvement of the army in politics goes back to the words of Vitalis Zvinavashe prior to the 2002 Presidential elections. Zvinavashe was the then commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.
On 9 January 2002 he waa quoted as saying, “We wish to make it very clear to all Zimbabweans citizens that the security organisations will only stand in support of those political leaders that will pursue Zimbabwean values, traditions and beliefs for thousands of lives lost in pursuit of Zimbabwe’s hard-worn independence.” On 10 January 2002 he further said, “Let it be known that the highest office on the land is a “straight jacket” whose occupant is expected to observe the objectives of the liberation struggle.
We would therefore not accept, let alone support or salute anyone with a different agenda that threatens the very existence of our sovereignity, our country and our people.” Basing on this foundation on August 17, 2021 George Charamba saidveterans of the struggle will not allow Nelson Chamisa to rule even if he wins the elections. That tirade angered the majority of Zimbabweans.
When people like Charamba echo those sentiments they fully know that the top brass at Zimbabwe Defence Forces most of them who are veterans of the struggle will not allow that to happen. Zimbabwe is not a Banana Republic so as such the army does not operate in a jungle but there are Constitutional provisions which guide their conduct.
According to section 211(3) The Defence Forces must respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all persons and be non-partisan, professional and subordinate to the civilian authority as established by the Constitution. The constitution is crystal clear like the azure blue sky that the army must be non-partisan.
Considering how clear that clause is, it now puzzles the sane mind when the army operates like an extension of ZANU PF. Section 212 further states that the function of the Defence Forces is to protect Zimbabwe, its people, its national security and interests and its territorial integrity and to uphold the Constitution. Following the clarity of the constitution majors of jurisprudence will agree with me that the army is constitutionally obliged to respect the will of the people and protect it rather than to force their will or the will of their handlers on the people.
Our military must take a leaf from the Zambian and Malawian forces where elections were recently held democratically.
To begin with elections were held in Malawi in 2019 which were fraud-marred and which returned President Peter Mutharika to office. Following the massive rigging people took to the streets to protest against the rigging.
As a result of the protests violent clashes between the police and protesters erupted in 2019 which led to the millitary getting involved. When the military chipped in they protected the people from the police.
This is contrary to what happened in Zimbabwe where the military joined hands with the police on 1 August 2018 to beat up the people instead of protecting them from the police. Following their intervention Malawi’s army was praised internationally for taking the good move to protect democracy and uphold the constitution.
While deploying forces in August 2019, Malawi Defence Forces (MDF) commander Vincent Nundwe declared that his “priority is to ensure that Malawi is sovereign as well as peaceful.” It is this kind of statement that the people want to hear and not the vitriol from the likes of Zvinavashe which urinates and micturates on the right of the people to select their leaders.
One good thing to note is the fact that that Commander Nundwe’s words were not just mere talk but he proved to be a professional man and walked the talk as evidenced by the role the military played in the 2020 elections which saw Lazarus Chakwera being elected as the President.
In 2020 when the people entered into the streets to demonstrate the army stood firmly by the people. The Malawian army proved to be an army for the people which stood with the people at all cost.
Lessons must be drawn also from the conduct of the Zambian military during the recently held 2021 elections which saw Hakainde Hichilema of the opposition UNPD winning the presidential poll. Taking a closer analysis surgically one is convinced that the Zambian army dud a superb job.
On 1 August 2021the Zambian President Edgar Chagwa Lungu deployed the army to quell violence before the vote. If there is one thing to be noted it is the fact that the Zambian election was tightly contested and as such there was high probability for violence.
As the temperatures were almost reaching the boiling point more and more troops continued to be deployed to reinforce the forces that were in the streets.
The major goal for the deployment was to guarantee the prevailance of peace during the counting process. The Zambian army saw to it that there was a peaceful transition.
This reminds me of a picture that went viral on social media when a member of the ruling Patriotic Front tried to play mickey-mouse games and disrupt proceedings at the National Command Centre.
Two soldiers were equal to the task and whisked him out regardless of him being a ruling party member. Another video also went viral of two men who were caught with a tax full of ballot papers at one polling station in Solwezi Constituency.
The men were detained and beaten up by the members of the Zambian army. If it was in Zimbabwe the writing is on the wall judging from previous conducts that the army would have helped the men to rig. What buffles the sane mind us the fact that on 1 August 2021 the Zambian Army was out protecting the vote and making sure the will of the people was respected. On the same day on 1 August 2018, 3 years ago our beloved Zimbabwean army was out in the streets shooting at people defending their vote. They were busy aiding the ruling party to micturate and defecate on the rights of the people to vote.
Going forward I wish our army will take a leaf from their Zambian and Malawian counterparts and at least allow professionalism to reign supreme in the baracks. I hope and pray God Himself will descend down on our Motherland and let His mighty hand make our beloved military see the light.
I just like my fellow Zimbabweans do not hate the army. We love and respect our men and women of the cloth but we are highly opposed to their conduct when they act as if they are an extension of the Zimbabwean ruling party.
I so much yearn for that environment and period whereby our army will respect the will of the people and allow anyone who would have won the plebiscite to rule.
Until and such a time Zimbabwe will continue to regress towards the medieval era. What we all long for is an army for the people and an army that will protect the will of the people.
By Robson Madakutonga Chikwinya
Zimbabwe Election Advocacy Trust National Coordinator