Sanyatwe effectively confirmed ZANU PF can’t win free and fair elections!

Tendai Ruben Mbofana

The  recent utterances by ZNA (Zimbabwe National Army) Commander General Anselem Sanyatwe were quite troubling on many fronts.

The most obvious, of course, was the flagrant disregard for the supreme law of the country. 

His unambiguous and unequivocal support for the ruling ZANU PF – in the process boldly declaring that the party would rule the country ‘till donkeys grow horns’ – was a brazen violation of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

Section 208(3) is very clear: Members of the security forces must not be active members or office bearers of any political party or organization.

Is that not why President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa later rescinded his October 2023 appointment of the Commander of the ZDF (Zimbabwe Defence Forces) General Philip Valerio Sibanda to the ZANU PF Politburo?

Yet, here we have the ZNA Commander openly addressing a ZANU PF inter-district meeting in Nyanga, and not only proudly displaying his support for the party but declaring that it would rule ‘forever’.

In fact, does section 208(2) of the Constitution not state, “Neither the security services nor any of their members may, in the exercise of their functions, act in a partisan manner and further the interests of any political party or cause”?

In his reckless statement to the gathering, Sanyatwe even made it abundantly clear that he was also speaking in his capacity as the army commander. 

As much as the people of Zimbabwe have become accustomed to the ruling elite treating that sacrosanct document (the Constitution) as a useless nonsensical piece of paper, this was still, nonetheless, extremely disturbing.

How on earth are we expected to advance as Zimbabwe when we are being ruled over by a group of lawless gangsters who do not respect the country’s laws?

Of course, we should not expect any action to be taken against Sanyatwe.

Besides, did the Kgalema Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry into the 1 August 2018 shooting of unarmed protestors on the streets of Harare by the military not recommend the prosecution of all those involved?

Sanyatwe, at that time a Brigadier-General, was the Commander of the Presidential Guard directly fingered in the heinous killings – where most were  shot in the back, in cold blood, as they fled the soldiers. 

As to be expected, he was never held to account.

If anything, he was appointed the Zimbabwe Ambassador to Tanzania, and subsequently, the ZNA Commander.

So, in all likelihood, after his latest arrogant breach of the country’s laws, he may actually get another pat on the back by Mnangagwa.

Be that as it may, there was something else I found rather troubling, if not somewhat revealing, from Sanyatwe’s utterances in Nyanga.

After reminding everyone present that he was the army commander, he proceeded to threaten that there would be something called ‘command voting’ in future elections to ensure a ZANU PF victory ‘whether you like it or not’!

From what was described, this is a process whereby people – in this regard, rural villagers – are forced, or literally press ganged, and commandeered into voting for ZANU PF with the use of traditional leaders. 

As it turns out, this is really nothing new in Zimbabwe. 

Is this not how ZANU PF has supposedly ‘won’ elections ever since the country attained independence in 1980?

As a matter of fact, this was one of the rigging methods employed by the British governor in Rhodesia, Lord Christopher Soames, in ensuring a ZANU win over the more popular ZAPU during the pre-independence elections.

Lord Soames turned a blind eye to ZANU’s intimidation and violent ways, predominantly in rural areas – where ZANLA forces, who had deliberately not been placed into ‘assembly points’, were deployed to commandeer villagers into voting for ZANU. 

Traditional leaders were to play a central role, as they were coerced, through the instilling of fear, into forcing their villagers to vote for ZANU.

As such, we can confidently assert that the ‘command voting’ to which Sanyatwe referred was actually introduced into ZANU PF’s DNA some 44 years ago.  

In other words, ZANU PF was permitted by the British to believe that using violence and ‘command voting’ was acceptable.

In fact, the Zimbabwe ruling party leaned the crude art of electoral fraud from the UK.

From my discussions with an individual who was involved in the transition to independent Zimbabwe, after then Tanzania leader Mwalimu Julius Nyerere questioned Lord Soames as to how it was possible that ZANU won the elections, the British collected all the ballot papers and allegedly destroyed them in the UK. 

However, one may ask why the British would want ZANU to win the 1980 elections.

This was so as to prevent the Soviet-sponsored ZAPU from gaining power as that would have threatened British interests in a postcolonial Zimbabwe. 

Let us not forget that the liberation struggle was conducted at the height of the so-called ‘Cold War’ – between the Capitalist West (led by the US) and the Communist East (under the control of the Soviet Union).

As such, the emergence of ZAPU was viewed with disdain and even apprehension by the UK since the introduction of Communism in Zimbabwe would have led to a massive attack on British commercial interests through nationalization. 

ZANU was a safe bet as then leader Robert Gabriel Mugabe and his sidekicks like Mnangagwa were British puppets who would ensure these interests were jealously guarded. 

As much as ZANLA forces received military aid from China, this was not a problem for the British because the Asia nation was still a nonentity on the global geopolitical stage. 

Mugabe and ZANU PF diligently fulfilled this obligation for the first 20 years of independence – even getting knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, in the midst of a genocidal massacre of over 20,000 unarmed civilians. 

Only after the end of the Cold War in the 1990s did the UK begin to distance itself from ZANU PF.

It was clear that the British no longer needed ZANU PF since not only had ZAPU been destroyed through the 1987 Unity Accord but also the Soviet Union was no more.

Relations started to deteriorate – leading to then British Prime Minister Tony Blair reneging on a long-standing pledge to fund the redistribution of land.

This led to the violent land reform program of the early 2000s.

That is a story for another day.

Nevertheless, ever since 1980, ZANU PF has never won an election freely and fairly – as intimidation, violence,  and brazen vote rigging have been the norm, usually through the use of the military, youth militia, and traditional leaders. 

This fact was even aptly recorded in the SEOM (SADC Election Observer Mission) report on the August 2023 harmonized elections – where traditional leaders and the shadowy FAZ (Forever Associates Zimbabwe) were cited as frogmarching voters to polling stations, where they were forced to vote for ZANU PF.

As with Sanyatwe’s unlawful declarations of his undying support for the ruling party, it is equally unconstitutional for traditional leaders to be political. 

Section 281(2) is unambiguous: Traditional leaders must not be members of any political party or in any way participate in partisan politics, act in an partisan manner, and further the interests of any political party or cause. 

Yet, as has become the norm, the Mnangagwa regime frowns upon and does not respect the rule of law. 

They can not afford to respect the law as that would leave ZANU PF exposed to its widespread unpopularity. 

As Professor Jonathan Moyo once commented, in September 2016, whilst still a senior ruling party official, “ZANU PF can’t reform itself out of power.”

Without ‘command voting’ and the use of repressive policies, ZANU PF will not last a single day longer. 

This was effectively confirmed by Sanyatwe in Nyanga as his threats exposed a party that had absolutely no confidence of winning a truly free, fair, and credible election.

ZANU PF is still as unpopular as it was in 1980 – if not more hated today, due to the poverty and suffering the ruling elite have caused ordinary citizens.

● Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate and writer. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email:, or visit website: