Commander of the Zimbabwe National Army, Lieutenant-General Phillip Valerio Sibanda and the head of 2 Brigade, Brigadier-General Douglas Nyikayaramba, last week claimed that Zimbabwe was undergoing an asymmetrical warfare aimed at regime change.
The belligerents, Sibanda and Nyikaramba claimed, were foreign-based pirate radio stations and NGOs; and the generals said the army should remain on guard.
“Our country is undergoing asymmetric-type of war where all means are used to achieve set objectives by our detractors,” Sibanda told a study seminar of the army in Harare last Monday. “Zimbabweans must be aware and clearly understand that war is not only about guns and bullets. Zimbabwe’s detractors are using some NGOs and pirate radio stations to spread false and hate messages that will lead to rioting, despondency and eventually cause war.”
Nyikayaramba told the same seminar that: “There are so many instruments which are used in asymmetric warfare and we, as the 2 Brigade, were tasked to equip our army officers with knowledge so that they do not only protect the country with guns.”
Not to be outdone, Army Chief of Staff Major-General Martin Chedondo on Monday said NGOs must stick to their core business and not dabble in politics because soldiers will not sit back and watch outsiders “meddling” in the country’s internal affairs.
“The Zimbabwe National Army is highly trained and we will not sit by and watch them threaten our hard-won peace and independence,” Chedondo cheekily said. “As the last line of defence, the ZNA will not be threatened by anyone, they (people engaged in subversive activities) should respect our sovereignty. It is every Zimbabwean’s duty to help defend their motherland. This current asymmetric warfare is not meant for the army but the nation at large. This war is not only about regime change, but it is aimed at eradicating our Zimbabwean values and legacy which is firmly found in our repossession of the land.”
Thanks to the generals for showing us how asymmetrical this war is. It is lopsided, unfair and embarrassingly tilted. Imagine one group attacking using pens and pirate radio stations whilst another is holding its position and firing live bullets. The winner in this instance is obvious.
This is a good advertisement by the generals of the extent of politicisation in the military establishment. The world is now watching keenly to see what Chedondo means by not sitting back and watching.
The generals have shown no regard and respect for the Global Political Agreement (GPA) that ushered in the inclusive government. Their public outbursts call for urgent security reforms to ensure commanders adhere to the doctrine of being apolitical as entrenched in the Defence Act.
The GPA clearly states that government institutions and organs — the army included — should “strictly observe the principles of the rule of law and remain non-partisan and impartial”.
Since last year, we have seen and observed army generals making political pronouncements without being censured by the powers that be.
These are the same man who vowed alongside Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri and Prison Commissioner Paradzai Zimondi that they would not and would never salute Morgan Tsvangirai if he won the presidential election run-off against President Robert Mugabe.
What the men in uniform must understand is that if their boss had opened up the media space, pirate radios would not exist. The exposure by NGOs of violation of civil and political rights, stifling of the media and selective application of the law cannot and should not be seen as subversion. In a democracy, we should tolerate divergent views and not threats.
The behaviour by army generals makes Zimbabwe and Sadc’s case for removal of international sanctions difficult. The international community has put benchmarks to be met by Zimbabwe before the sanctions are lifted, but little has been done to fulfil the conditions.
Little has been done in liberalising the media, legislative reforms, security organs reforms, upholding of human rights and the resolution of the sticking points of the GPA.
Muckraker would urge the military to do a survey to find out what a Zimbabwean in the rural area will more likely run away from: a soldier or a small shortwave radio.
The United States assistant secretary for African affairs, Johnnie Carson, last week put it succinctly that his country had enormous amounts of respect for Sadc and what it stands for, but differ with the regional bloc on when and how to lift sanctions.
“We reserve the right to lift those sanctions when we want to do so and when we see progress,” Carson said. “We have sought to engage on Zimbabwe. We would like to see Zimbabwe not being a drag on Sadc and the region, and we would like to see a return to democracy. We do not believe that the global political agreement has been implemented and that we do not believe enough has been done.”
Indeed enough has not been done because of Mugabe and Zanu PF’s intransigence!
Carson added: “We think it is premature to lift sanctions on Zimbabwe’s leaders. And we think it is important not to let the economic advantages that Morgan Tsvangirai and Tendai Biti bring to the case to be exploited and used by Robert Mugabe and others to secure their further control on government. We will continue to dialogue and talk with Sadc and others, but we still think insufficient progress has been made, and to remove that pressure may in effect allow for economic gains, but not in effect change the dynamics of the political strangulation that Zanu PF exercises on political control and power.”
We hope those with ears have heard!
It was interesting to hear Mugabe, who is also First Secretary of Zanu PF, bemoaning the “growing” factionalism in his party at the Women’s League Conference last week. This is not the first time that he has complained about factionalism in Zanu PF. But why has he not done anything about it and if there is so much factionalism in his party, why has he always tried to portray Zanu PF as a strong revolutionary force?
We know the answer. Mugabe has benefited from these divisions and confusion over his succession? How many times have people read about Mugabe’s about-turns and new twists in the succession saga? But all this confusion is caused by Mugabe himself. Mugabe is undoubtedly using the confusion to hold on to power. One minute, he is pushing for Vice President Joice Mujuru to succeed him and next, there are reports that she has fallen out after accusing her of trying to stampede him out of office. In the same vein, Emmerson Mnangagwa appears like he might now be the chosen one and then next, there is talk of a third faction aligned to Mugabe, with Saviour Kasukuwere and Nicholas Goche pulling the strings. He has been playing Mnangagwa and Mujuru with the deft skills of master puppeteer.
Mugabe needs to put his house in order. Factionalism is not new in Zanu PF and can be traced as far back as 1963. Then it was the Chinese-trained versus the Russian-trained, intellectuals versus others, one ethnic group versus another. As long as Zanu PF continues to have an unclear succession policy, the battle for supremacy will continue to dog the party.
Talking about factionalism, there was drama last week at the Zanu PF Women’s League conference when mothers and grandmothers fought each other. What made the whole scene ugly was that the battle was not theirs to fight, but a culmination of manipulation by men in the party’s politburo. It was quite a sight when about 15 women started assaulting a group of 40, mainly elderly women from Manicaland province, with chairs just outside the venue at Harare City Sports Centre. The women, allegedly aligned to Women’s League boss Oppah Muchinguri, were assaulted when they tried to force their way into the conference venue where elections to choose a new executive were being conducted. In the tents outside the venue, women aligned to Muchinguri and Olivia Muchena from the Mujuru camp fought each other. The women hurled insults and obscenities at each other as they tried to outdo each other. The women danced and sang derogatory songs, denouncing rivalry factions. Hundreds of delegates who attended the conference were caught up in the stampedes that broke out. According to Muchinguri, some women sustained broken limbs while some were admitted to hospital.
What lessons are they trying to teach the younger generation?
We think quite highly of local sports journos, but we also believe some would do well to curb their enthusiasm in the interest of separating facts from fiction and PR. We don’t have many sporting heroes in the country and that perhaps explains why there appears to be a concerted attempt to make superstars out of mediocre players, some of whom have
flopped spectacularly abroad.
Evans Gwekwerere was indeed a hit at Dynamos a couple of years back, thanks to his then blossoming goal-scoring skills. But when the South African rand called young Gwekwerere obliged, joining premiership side Moroka Swallows, he was “offloaded” — soccer’s equivalent of being retrenched, — he joined FC AK (a first division team) and then Jomo Cosmos, then also a first division team. In May he claimed to a South African publication that he had secured a two-year contract with a Vietnamese side! The rest, to borrow a tired cliché, is history. Ask even a part-time soccer fan and s/he will probably tell you that Gwekwerere was a mega-flop in South Africa.
Muckraker was thus surprised to learn in the Herald that Gwekwerere was now a “key man” at DeMbare, despite not having played for them for about three years. And what’s more, he was plotting a move to Europe in January, “to either Belgium or Russia”, when he failed to go to Vietnam, currently ranked 146th, 26 places below Zimbabwe?
Not so fast: Is this not the same bloke who failed to make it in the lesser South African league and Vietman? We think he stands a better chance of playing in Aruba, or maybe Guam!
In the same issue was a match review of the DeMbare-Caps Utd derby. “Harare was virtually at a standstill,” it read, “as the two giants battled for supremacy at the ceremonial home of football before 18 954 fans who had paid their way in, according to official figures.”
If 19 000 fans at Rufaro Stadium, a 35 000-seater, can bring Harare — with a population of about two million — to a “virtually standstill”, we pray that the 60 000-seater National Sports Stadium does not reopen any time soon.
Would it not “virtually” grind business in Zimbabwe to a halt when full?
Muckracker was last month dragged — kicking and screaming — by a colleague to watch a DeMbare/Caps derby. It was a mouth-splitting yawn!
Muckracker has no plans to attend another overhyped Harare derby any time soon: not unless someone aims a nuclear missile at his head!