BY LORRAINE MUROMO
Zanu PF is already preparing for a violent 2023 election campaign season as evidenced by utterances of its acting commissar Patrick Chinamasa, observers have warned.
Chinamasa told journalists that Zanu PF would continue to work with the military because they were inseparable.
The military has on several occasions intervened when the ruling party’s grip on power is threatened, resulting in deadly incidences of political violence during elections.
In 2017, the army toppled long time ruler Robert Mugabe when succession problems threatened to throw the ruling party off rail.
Musa Kika, Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum executive director, said Chinamasa’s threats were not surprising as Zanu PF had always relied on the army for power retention.
“These statements by the Zanu PF official are thus subversive, and are calculated to send a message to the electorate, a warning that the architecture of violence is on standby,” Kika said.
“This has the effect of undermining free and popular participation in civic processes.
“It is no secret that Zanu PF has turned the national security apparatus into a part of its electioneering and power retention machinery, sometimes through the use of brute force.
“Yet this is unconstitutional.
“Our constitution requires the security services to be independent and have fidelity to the law and not a political party.”
The military has been accused of helping Zanu PF stay in power. In 2004, military generals declared they would not salute anyone without military background, referring to the late MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who was becoming more popular than Mugabe.
Vivid Gwede, a political analyst, said Chinamasa’s indirect threats were not a new phenomenon and were always used by the ruling party to silence independent opinion.
“These threats are not new as we have heard them in previous elections, including towards the 2018 elections by senior ruling party officials and some securocrats, but obviously not all,” said Gwede.
“Given the manner and dynamics of the 2017 transition from former president Mugabe, one cannot doubt the unfortunate relationship and conflation between the ruling party and the army.
“The threats must be understood to be directed at all Zimbabweans of an independent mind and on the constitution itself, which clearly does not countenance inseparability between a political party and the security institutions.”
He added, “What you must understand is that Zanu PF is aware that NGOs work towards opening up the democratic space and the party would want to close the space towards elections.”
Rashweat Mukundu, a political analyst, said Chinamasa was reading from an old Zanu PF script.
“This is the usual Zanu PF modus operandi more so when the party has demonstrated poor leadership as in the case now when the economy has imploded and millions more are sinking into poverty,” Mukundu said.
“The implications are that, once again we will have a violent and disputed election that will worsen Zimbabwe’s socio-economic crisis.”
Edknowledge Mandikwaza, a doctoral researcher at the University of Durban, said the acting Zanu PF commissar had acknowledged a public secret.
“Chinamasa confirmed a brutal truth that the government has always vehemently rejected,” Mandikwaza said.
“Acknowledging the conflation between the army and the ruling party publicly does harm the reputation of the government in the first place and secondly it tarnishes the independence and professional conduct of the armed forces.”
He added: “If Chinamasa was a sincere statesman, he would never wish a strengthened conflation between a political party and state institutions such as the military because that would be tantamount to politicization of the army which is unhealthy for our democracy.”
Chinamasa also threatened pro-democracy non-governmental organisations, accusing them of pursuing regime change agenda.
He also said Zimbabweans in the diapora would not be allowed to vote until the travel bans imposed on Zanu PF elites by western countries were removed.