A partisan military: The most potent weapon against democracy 

That Zimbabwe has become the proverbial cursed nation, which simply can’t unshackle itself from an economic abyss and political crisis that has rankled for decades, is beyond doubt.

Source: A partisan military: The most potent weapon against democracy – NewsDay Zimbabwe February 6, 2019


The highly-anticipated departure of former President Robert Mugabe was hugely expected to usher in a fresh democracy, in real terms.

Mugabe and his loathed wife Grace had become the personification of pain to the generality of Zimbabweans.

As thousands poured onto the streets of Harare and elsewhere across the country at the end of his rule in November 2017, the all-pervading atmosphere was that of a people filled with renewed hope, heading towards democracy.

What with the arrival of designate-president, then incoming President Emmerson Mnangagwa, exactly 16 days after he had been fired and forced to seek refuge in South Africa.

Upon touching ground, he immediately spoke words of reconciliation, economic revival and peace.

“We want to grow our economy, we want jobs … all patriotic Zimbabweans (should) come together, work together,” he said.

It is now exactly 14 months after Mnangagwa uttered these hope-filled words amidst piercing screams of approval.

He has spoken time and again of the need to better the economy and bring back Zimbabwe to the family of nations.

The man has toured a number of countries in a bid to shift the country’s economic fortunes, yet the stark reality of Zimbabwe is that the economy is no better than it was the morning Mugabe and Grace were placed under house arrest in November 2017.

In essence, the country has palpably slidden further into a darker void.

Despite all the good intentions of the President, it is apparent the vehicle simply can’t pull out of the mud.

It would appear that while Mnangagwa struggles to sell and instil confidence in the Zimbabwean brand to the wider world, his efforts have not been complimented, especially by the security forces back home.

The crux of the matter is the increasingly embarrassing misgivings of the army.

The security sector, particularly the army, has done little to prove that Zimbabwe is past the blatant dictatorship synonymous with the Mugabe administration.

Whether Mnangagwa can be absolved or not from the unruly conduct of elements within the military, is discussion for another day.

But the brutal truth is that the army has thrown the country’s name into discernible disrepute.

From wanton beatings, assaults, rape and arbitrary killing of unarmed citizens, the list is just endless.

The army has become the most potent weapon against democracy in this country.

It is rather unfortunate that the history of Zimbabwe, right from independence in 1980 to date, has been influenced by the gun.

There is a delusion that has endured for decades in Zimbabwean politics, anchored in the belief that the army is beyond reproach.

There are plenty of cases before the courts, where military personnel, in social life, continue to engage in unlawful activities, believing themselves to be above the law.

It is extremely sad that this fatal delusion has not been exposed as we would all want.

After the unforgivable shooting of civilians by the army on August 1 last year, all that we heard from the compromised Kgalema Motlanthe-led commission of inquiry did not do justice to the truth on the ground.

Even after the recent bloody protests sparked by the fuel price hikes, the explanations and inquiries into conduct of members of the army have been nothing more than a decoy to quell concerned voices.

It is an undeniable fact that the army is the defence of any country.

It has the instruments with which to overthrow, unlike mere political rhetoric from political leaders.

It, therefore, becomes important for the army to know where to draw the line and gain public confidence.

It must, therefore, be stressed that Zimbabwe is no different from other countries that have armies, but the role of the military must be well set out.

While many supported the army’s actions in November 2017 (deposing Mugabe), no one saw the current heavy-handedness against the citizens coming.

We all saw a new beginning; once normalcy had returned, we all thought the army would go back to its official duty of defending the country.

The military should, for the good of democracy, profess non-inclination to any political party.

We have heard plenty of misguided statements from Zanu PF politicians since the days of the late MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Many will remember the infamous declaration that the army would not salute a leader without liberation war credentials.

Such utterances apparently poisoned the political environment and the remnant of the effects can be felt from the undiplomatic conduct by so-called rogue soldiers.

Zimbabwe is unlikely to make meaningful headway towards democracy as long as the army is perceived to dabble in partisan party politics.

Democracy, in its true form, can never exist where the military has an active role in the country’s internal matters.

It becomes imperative, therefore, that the army in Zimbabwe moves to clean up and spruce its image and halt the bludgeoning of civilians.

The army must not only be heard to be stating that it’s apolitical, but its conduct must be in sync with what they would be saying.

The country can remain sure that it is under military rule, thinly disguised by a civilian leader, as long as the status quo remains.