corruptionwatch:WITH TAWANDA MAJONI
One crazy thing happened last week. Not quite surprising, but shocking, nonetheless. A brazen case of crass impunity and criminality in the ruling Zanu PF.
The ruling party held a politburo meeting. Nothing wrong with that. The party can hold as many politburo meetings as it wants, and whenever its whim dictates, as has always been the case. The problem is, at the latest meeting last week, the decision-making politburo hauled in the two topmost generals from the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO). That is, the director general, Isaac Moyo, and his deputy, Walter Tapfumaneyi.
The dominant item on the agenda was factional fights within Zanu PF. The party has a security department, which is led by Lovemore Matuke. The party security chief made some interesting revelations. He told the meeting that some Zanu PF elements were plotting against their president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is also the Zimbabwean president.
At the end of the meeting, they announced that they had suspended a politburo member, Cleveria Chizema, who reportedly kept at her home, placards denouncing Mnangagwa and supporting his deputy, Constantino Chiwenga, ahead of the national protests that the opposition and civil society had called for July 31. Things are still murky, but it seems the reason why they brought in Moyo and Tapfumaneyi was to get their say and findings on the alleged factional developments apparently pitting Mnangagwa against Chiwenga.
And — as reported and not refuted — the two top spooks supported the claims that Matuke had made about the party saboteurs apparently being used to uproot Mnangagwa. They are said to have said they had made the same findings as Matuke on the factional drama taking place in the party.
Now, that’s bizarre. Zanu PF has Matuke and other chaps in its security department. What, then, was the thinking behind roping in the big spooks to participate in a conversation arranged by a private institution, Zanu PF? You and I will make our good guesses out of it. Maybe, as the media speculated, Mnangagwa wanted to hasten his point about the claimed sabotage and show Chiwenga that he was clever and knew what Brutus was plotting.
But whatever reasons were there to haul Moyo and Tapfumaneyi into the plot, the point is, their participation in the politburo talk show was illegal. It tore the constitution into pieces the moment the two arrived at the Rotten Row hall. It betrayed the slippery slope that comes with conflating national issues and the affairs of a private institution.
The Zimbabwean constitution is loud and fluent on such matters. For starters, the constitution declares itself as the supreme law which any law, practice, custom or conduct must obey, and which is binding on any person or institution. This one, given under the Founding Provisions in Chapter I, is a very useful provision. What it means is that no-one, not even the ruling party, must rebel against the constitution. It’s the people’s anointed covenant and must not be touched.
Now, under the same chapter, the Zimbabwean constitution categorically lists down the tiers of government. And a political party, ruling or wishing to rule, is nowhere near that. That means that Zanu PF is not a tier of government, even though it’s the ruling party. It remains what a political party must be, a private and voluntary organisation.
But more usefully, under Chapter 11, the constitution gives invaluable wisdom on security services. Here, the supreme law says many noble things. Members of the security services, of which the CIO is part, must always act in accordance with the constitution and other laws. That’s number one. Two, members of the security services must not act in a partisan manner.
Three, members of the security services must not further the interests of any political party or cause. Four members of the security service must not prejudice the lawful interests of any political party. Five, they must not be active members or office bearers of any political party or organisation. Then, last but not least, servicemen and women must not be engaged in civilian institutions, except in periods of public emergency.
Those are the commandments. Going against them means you are acting in an unconstitutional, therefore criminal and impeachable manner.
Back to the politburo meeting as it relates to the participation of Moyo and the deputy director general in CIO. Is there, therefore, any doubt about what the gathering did to the constitution, in spirit and act? Moyo and his deputy stopped being impartial the moment they stepped into the Zanu PF headquarters for a private, political meeting. But then, the mere fact that they also carried out their own investigations on a purely party issue regarding factionalism made them partisan too.
For argument’s sake, let’s assume they did those investigations on the basis that Mnangagwa is the national president and, therefore, whatever happens to him is of national interest. But that didn’t give them any mandate to go and report to the Zanu PF politburo. Section 209 provides for a National Security Council whose roles include advising the presidium on national security issues. The president and his deputies are supposed to be part of the council, together with the service chiefs and relevant ministers. That’s the theatre the CIO bosses must have taken the matter to if they were genuinely convinced that the factional happenings in Zanu PF had a national bearing.
Not the Zanu PF headquarters. Participating in party squabbles makes you partisan, no doubt about it. It means that, directly or indirectly, you are influencing party policies, decisions and actions. Yet, as already seen, the supreme law says the security service must never further the interests of any political party. Nor should they engage in civilian institutions unless in an emergency. Nor must they actively participate in the affairs of a political party, whichever that party is. By informing policy, decisions and actions — directly or indirectly — those that do it are actively involving themselves in political party affairs.
Zanu PF, as a political party, is a civilian institution. That means security servicemen and women must find the farthest spot away from it and stay there, unless they don’t mind being seen as unconstitutional miscreants. And, by the way, there is no emergency that would justify their involvement in civilian affairs as Moyo and Tapfumaneyi did. Yes, we have an emergency. That’s Covid-19. But that emergency has no relevance to what is being talked about here. If there is any relevant emergency, it’s the so-called factional fights in Zanu PF and all those rumours about imminent coups. But then, that’s a Zanu PF emergency, not a national one.
This disruptive collation of party politics and national politics is a long-drawn narrative in Zanu PF. They just can’t separate the two as the law requires. But the fact that they have always done it doesn’t make it right. In fact, it’s partly the reason why Zimbabwe is in such a mess.
The culture of impunity where this conflation is concerned may be working in Zanu PF’s favour now as it has done in the past. But, friends and countrymen, the fact that storks have always come in summer doesn’t mean they will always come in summer. One day will be one day, when things change, never mind if the change will be from Zanu PF or elsewhere.
l Tawanda Majoni is the Information for Development Trust (IDT) national coordinator and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.