Military’s role in Zim politics destabilising

Democratic forces need to reflect on the political situation and direction Zimbabwe may take in the next three to 12 months if some matters — which include the crisis affecting the constitution-making process, calls for early elections and growing factionalism and succession battles in Zanu PF that have sucked in security forces — are not addressed.

Factionalism, now linked to President Robert Mugabe’s succession war, has always been inherent in Zanu PF and represented by two major antagonists, namely Joice Mujuru and Emmerson Mnangagwa. To a larger extent, people within or outside Zanu PF should not decry this situation as it is essential and healthy in any given political organisation or democratic society.

Vigorous competition for leadership provides party functionaries and the electorate at large an opportunity to elect candidates based on merit and good societal standing. What should instead give Zimbabweans and the region sleepless nights is the involvement of securocrats not only in Zanu PF factionalism and succession politics, but also Zimbabwe’s electoral politics.

Remarks by senior army commanders, including Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF)  Chief of Staff Major – General Martin Chedondo on Tuesday and others before that, show a disturbing trend of the growing involvement of security forces in politics.

It is a generally accepted constitutional, legal and international principle uniformed forces should not dabble in politics. Consequences of the military participation in politics in many countries have been disastrous.

What has been happening in several African countries, including Guinea and Mali among others, is still fresh in our minds. What has also happened in countries like Egypt and Libya where there were mass uprisings, civil wars and military takeovers as a result of political and economic failures must serve as a lesson for Zimbabwe. We have witnessed social, economic and political upheavals and given our explosive situation, swift and decisive actions should be taken to preserve democracy before the country degenerates into a military dictatorship.

It is thus important for political players and stakeholders to put the national interest above party political and individual agendas to prevent Zimbabwe descending into chaos.

One serious threat which factionalism in Zanu PF — which has a military dimension — poses to the country’s political stability is the call for early elections whose outcome will inevitably be disputed. This destabilising push for early elections being spearheaded by the military, the real power behind Mugabe’s throne, has of late been playing out at the party’s politburo meetings, state-owned media and other public platforms.

 

While Zanu PF’s volatile factionalism and Mugabe’s intensifying succession battle are contributing significantly to making Zimbabwe a political powder keg, it is the role of the military in politics which is most disturbing and dangerous.

Agitated calls for early elections, with or without a new constitution, have been accompanied by calculated attempts to destabilise and paralyse operations of the inclusive government. The strategy here is to ensure that the democratic forces, in a fit of rage and frustration, agree to the call for early elections as a way of solving the current political impasse. Hawkish elements within Zanu PF are mainly being coordinated through the Joint Operation Command, which brings together army, police and intelligence chiefs.

Related to the campaign for early elections is the current stalemate in the constitution-making process. There is growing confusion as to when the document will be finalised. At one point we are told that there is only one issue which relates  to devolution which remains parked. The following day the nation is informed   issues to do with sexual orientation  alongside  the death penalty have arisen and before sunset we are told the  draft constitution,  currently being serialised in newspapers, is not the authentic document.

We are aware that much of the confusion has been caused by Zanu PF’s factionalism and succession battles, but at the same time the MDC formations and the civic society are losing the plot through their strategy of focusing on the constitution-making process which they want to use to remove Mugabe and Zanu PF, while neglecting the most viable method of change — mass mobilisation and recruitment.

This approach betrays a defeatist attitude on the part of the democratic forces. The current constitution, with electoral reforms reforms enacted prior to the 2008 elections, can be used successfully to create conditions for free and fair elections. The obsession with things like gay rights and other such issues have made democratic forces shift their eyes away from the ball and lose sight of the bigger picture.

There is therefore a need for an immediate paradigm shift and change of strategy. Attendant to this also would be a serious diplomatic offensive in the region highlighting the dangers of Zimbabwe descending into chaos in months ahead as a result of these simmering problems. It is however unfortunate that most countries in the region are presently worried about their domestic economic and political challenges.

 

Countries like South Africa, Malawi, Zambia, Swaziland and the DRC are absorbed with internal problems.There is also the conflict between Sudan and South Sudan which the African Union is currently seized with. This however should not stop local parties from highlighting burning  Zimbabwean issues.

A bigger issue which democratic forces have been unwilling to attend to when it comes to electoral politics  is the 2006 split of the MDC and possible coalitions going to elections. The issue is about a need to form a coalition by all parties not just to tackle Mugabe, but also the rise of the securocrats which could take Zimbabwe down the road to brutal dictatorship. The democratic forces must stand up and speak with one voice. The tendency to think that Zanu PF will collapse in the post-Mugabe era is delusional.

Political tools of analysis indicate we are most likely going to see a reinvigorated party under a new autocratic leader with a military or repressive background. It thus becomes necessary now more than ever to rise above party politics in pursuit of a national cause which will benefit  current and future generations.

 

Mazwi is a political scientist with Abammeli (A Network for Lawyers for Human Rights). He writes in his personal capacity. Email: fmazwi@gmail.com

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