Source: Mnangagwa must urgently act on rogue soldiers – NewsDay Zimbabwe December 12, 2017
It was never going to be easy for the new government led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the expectations across many sectors are just, but overwhelming.
By Learnmore Zuze
From his inaugural speech to the Cabinet announcement, the world continues to listen with heart in ear.
Surely, this can only be attributed to former President Robert Mugabe’s rule, whose hallmark was terror for people and no sane person would want to be led back to the dark years of his presidency.
Mnangagwa, as I have said on various forums, can only be daft to continue with the destructive legacy of Mugabe although he may view him in the light of a father.
The best thing about succeeding Mugabe on the economic front is that there is no room for worse performance.
Mugabe was the embodiment of economic mismanagement. The worst scenario for Mnangagwa would be to remain at Mugabe’s level.
It takes only a little effort to outshine Mugabe.
And the positive news so far is that Mnangagwa has hit the ground running. Apparently, the man is eager to make things work.
The enthusiasm exhibited by Mnangagwa in the last 16 days is precisely what had departed from Mugabe’s soul and conduct.
He saw no urgency in the economic problems confronting the nation.
He saw nothing amiss with the colossal civil service wage bill and didn’t have the moral sense to see how his expensive air travel and wife’s expensive tastes were milking the nation dry, among many other profligacies.
While Mnangagwa’s intentions are clearly well-meant as espoused in the 2018 National Budget delivered by Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa last week, there is something that has the capacity to gravely taint his rule.
Given the way he ascended to power, this thing threatens to disengage all the good intentions attributed to his initiatives.
The thing casts a giant shadow on his rule.
As it stands, this thing I talk of is the strong crutch on which disgruntlement and resentment against his rule will lean on.
And what is this thing that I highlight with so much weight? It is this: Failure to act against rogue elements within the army.
Yes, failure to act on rogue army actions could easily prove to be the thin ice that Mnangagwa walks on to sink into oblivion.
While he has tried to significantly depart from Mugabeism, he has to put his foot down on terror on civilians by soldiers.
If Mnangagwa and his administration are to fail on this front, then surely, he will lose the people he had charmed by his dramatic entry into power. He will lose all the goodwill.
Silence while citizens are harassed by the army amounts to complicity, as they say.
Something certainly needs to be done about soldiers who go about terrorising the nation.
While Zimbabwe National Army Commander Lieutenant General Phillip Valerio Sibanda made pronouncements to the effect that soldiers must be disciplined, incidents of the past week reveal a disturbing trend that must end forthwith.
A number of incidents continue to be reported where soldiers assault people in broad daylight.
The widely shared incident on social media reveals two soldiers descending on Bakers Inn employees and assaulting one on camera.
Ordinary shoppers are also seen trooping out of the shop after the assault.
It is yet to be ascertained what precipitated the incident, but either way, there is nothing that justifies soldiers assaulting civilians.
That is not part of their mandate. Soldiers must continue to act in good faith and I must admit that the majority of them on the roads are polite and understanding.
It was to an extent necessary to have these soldiers work alongside the police force to detoxify the poison of corruption that had become the signature of the police force.
However, there is no point in replacing bribe-taking by police officers with physical assaults by soldiers.
Elsewhere in Gweru, it was reported that soldiers had indiscriminately attacked revellers at a night club, sending everyone fleeing and the place being shut.
As civilians, we may not know aptly whether this behaviour represents plain indiscipline or it is an order, but we demand that the President, as the ultimate man, moves with speed to ensure that people can enjoy their freedoms without fear of a menacing army.
Mnangagwa must understand that the critical ingredient needed in his rule is confidence.
And surely, it would be suicidal for the electorate to trust with their vote a man who turns a blind eye on terror by the military.
I must, however, hasten to say that the conduct by most soldiers even those on the highways has been inspiring.
They won’t even accept bottled water from a motorist’s goodwill. They mean business.
But again, all this will amount to nothing if little is done on the isolated incidents of assaults by soldiers. It is always the little that spoils the bigger.
Again I repeat, Mnangagwa must, as a matter of urgency, rein in unscrupulous elements within the army. This will surely spoil it for him despite all the good intentions.
Learnmore Zuze is a law officer and writes in his own capacity. Email: email@example.com