HARARE – The fall of long-serving former president Robert Mugabe temporarily united Zimbabweans from all walks of life but weeks after the dust has settled, it’s back to daggers being drawn between the ruling Zanu PF and opposition movements.
And at the heart of the renewal of hostilities is the celebrated military intervention which ended with Mugabe resigning hours before an impeachment process by Parliament had begun.
“Mugabe legalised domination as mode of human relations. We need to speak about the issue of violence as we head into elections next year and the involvement of the military.
“I think in the Mugabe government, the use of the military was very covert. Whenever he sent out people to communities, there was an element of military involvement but it would evade most eyes. But now, the situation is worse because the use of the military is very open,” Civil rights campaigner Maureen Kademaunga told the annual Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ) Discussion Forum, held at the firm’s headquarters in the capital yesterday.
ANZ are the publishers of the inimitable Daily News, Daily News On Sunday and the Weekend Post.
The topic of the Discussion Forum was ‘‘Challenges and Opportunities for Zimbabwe post Mugabe’’.
“Some of the military personnel are already in government and some have been deployed to the ruling party, Zanu PF and for that, that is what is essentially telling. There has been a military takeover of Zanu PF.
“The critical component, which is the commissariat, has been given to former military commander (Engelbert Rugeje), someone whose history is well known, especially his involvement in the post-March 2008 election period,” said Kademaunga.
The curtain fell on Mugabe on November 21, when he resigned from the post he had held for 37 years — allowing his longtime aide Emmerson Mnangagwa whom he had fired from both government and Zanu PF — to return to the country from self-imposed exile to lead the former liberation movement and the country.
Mnangagwa took oath of office on November 24, to chart a new path for Zimbabwe’s politics, but thanks to the military intervention which started with Mugabe being placed under house arrest before a series of other events led to his resignation.
The 75-year-old former spy chief appointed two former military chiefs — Perrance Shiri and Sibusiso Moyo — to his Cabinet in what was widely seen as rewarding the military for its role in clearing his path to lead the country.
At its just-concluded extraordinary congress, Zanu PF named another general, Engelbert Rugeje, as its political commissar.
Former Commander of the Defence Forces and the man largely viewed as the architect of the military intervention — Constantino Chiwenga who retired this week — is hotly favoured to be named as one of Mnangagwa’s deputies.
“So for me, that is a cause for a concern which the opposition and other groups need to talk about because the truth of the matter is that going into 2018, the opposition and other groups are going into this election to contest against the military.
“So we took one step forward by removing Mugabe and then took five steps back by legitimising certain things. Military people can now unashamedly join government and take positions in political parties and justify it. We need to speak out these issues without fear,” said Kademaunga.
Firebrand independent Norton legislator, Temba Mliswa, who was one of the panellists, said there was nothing amiss with retired army chiefs getting involved in civilian politics.
Mliswa said the army intervention was meant to rescue the Constitution and thwart the illegal usurpation of the State by loquacious former first lady, Grace Mugabe.
Borrowing from former war veterans’ leader, Jabulani Sibanda, Mliswa said the military intervention was not a “coup” as some have been claiming, but a reversal of a “bedroom coup” by Grace.
“We had the first lady usurping powers. People talk about a coup done by the military but they don’t talk about a coup done by Grace. Which was the first coup?
“We want to talk about the so-called second coup, but was it really a coup or it was a move to address the coup that happened first. The whole country agrees that the first lady had usurped powers; she had become the de facto president; that was the coup.
“The military came in terms of section 212 of the Constitution, which says that the function of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces is to protect Zimbabwe, its people, its national security and interests and its territorial integrity and to uphold the Constitution,” Mliswa said.
“The challenge I am putting across is that of constitutionalism. The opposition is blessed with some of the country’s best legal brains, but no one made an application to the courts. Someone else did and it was thrown out.
“We cannot talk about a coup when certain people went to the court and challenged and the court ruled that it was not a coup and there was no appeal. They are lazy to make an application against a perceived anomaly,” he added.
The High Court has ruled that the military intervention was legal.
Drawing parallels with other countries, including the United States, where former military personnel was involved in politics, Mliswa said the Zimbabwean case should not be treated in isolation.
“When General Collin Powell was appointed United States secretary of State, no one ever said there was a general in the US government. If anything, it is a privilege to have them in government and that’s what we have.
“We should give a chance to Mnangagwa, an operator who realises that three or four sectors should be controlled by disciplined people.
“The land reform was becoming chaotic, there was an outcry on the distribution of farming inputs and he realises it’s best to give it to a military man (Shiri) who is good from both the operational point of view and in logistics,” said Mliswa.
“You don’t win a war without understanding logistics, he is meticulous. You have got Foreign Affairs which has a general and who will do things by the book and who will be the face of this country,” he added.
“The opposition lacks strategy. The opposition has the army in it, it has security in it. It has Giles Mutsekwa who was in the military and it has CIOs.
“The difference is that Zanu PF attracts generals while the opposition attracts constables but they still remain members of the police,” he said.
Mliswa believes Mnangagwa and Zanu PF’s fortunes will be boosted by the absence of a vibrant opposition.
“Zimbabwe is fast becoming a one-party State; in fact it is a one-party State. Zanu PF controls the pace of politics in Zimbabwe while the opposition is obsessed with networking with Washington.
“The opposition chooses not to talk to Zimbabweans while the ruling party talks to Zimbabweans. As we head towards the 2018 election, I see more regalia in Zanu PF than ever before,” Mliswa said.