THE military has played a crucial role in the just-ended general elections in which President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF are expecting a landslide victory, judging by the trends which were evident as of last night.
Report by Elias Mambo
The military has always worked behind the scenes to prevent democratic transition in Zimbabwe since the MDC was formed in 1999.
Prior to that, the security forces were involved in the polls, mainly during the violence-ridden 1985 general elections.
Ever since Zanu PF started losing its electoral hegemony in 2000, Zimbabwe’s Joint Operations Command (Joc), which brings together the army, police and intelligence chiefs, has been key to Mugabe and his party’s battle for political survival as it operated much like an army embedded in the former liberation movement’s party structures actively working to ensure regime security and continuity.
Before this week’s elections, Joc deployed the army all over the country to campaign covertly for Mugabe and Zanu PF.
The security sector, which for the past decade or so has been running government affairs together with Mugabe’s civilian regime, subverted the will of the people to prevail in 2008 when Mugabe lost in the first round of polling to MDC-T’s Morgan Tsvangirai.
The army was deployed to rescue Mugabe from the jaws of defeat.
Talking to journalists on Tuesday, a day before voting, Mugabe said although a few generals have openly dabbled in politics and expressed partisan views, the military was generally professional and disciplined.
“You are putting it as if all generals said so,” Mugabe responded after being asked for his views on the stance by army generals.
If one or two said so it’s just those one or two. They are not the army and they are not the authority anyway, but that was their own view and I thought it was corrected.
“They are law-abiding people, very law-abiding and you know it is military discipline that they obey not the discipline you and I are used to.”
During the past electoral processes, especially in 2002 and 2008, the military played a key role in the elections to ensure Mugabe’s political survival. The security also did the same during the 1985 general elections.
The dominance of the military is widespread as the security sector is systematically entrenched in the country’s political and civilian life, something which helps them to block democratic political transition.
As a result and throughout the post-Independence years, civil-military relations were poisoned and sacrificed on the altar of political expediency in defence of Zanu PF’s hegemony. Profoundly partisan political statements and actions have come from senior military commanders in support of Mugabe and Zanu PF.
In 2002, the former Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF), the late General Vitalis Zvinavashe, declared: “Let it be known that the highest office in the land is a straight jacket whose occupant is expected to observe the objectives of the liberation struggle.
“We will, therefore, not accept, let alone support or salute anyone with a different agenda that threatens the very existence of our sovereignty, our country and our people.”
His successor, General Constantine Chiwenga, shocked the world in 2008 by saying: “Elections are coming and the army will not support or salute sell-outs and agents of the West before, during and after the presidential elections. We will not support anyone other than President Mugabe, who has sacrificed a lot for this country.”
Chiwenga was among those who campaigned for Mugabe and Zanu PF before this week’s elections.
Senior members of various state security services have variously and publicly stated their support for Mugabe and Zanu PF as well as their undisguised contempt for Tsvangirai, the two MDC parties and all those opposed to Zanu PF’s rule.
Major-General Douglas Nyikaramba — who was illegally the chief elections officer during the crucial 2002 presidential election — last year described Tsvangirai as a “national security threat”.
Other army commanders who, before elections this week, openly supported Mugabe and Zanu PF include Major-Generals Martin Chedondo and Trust Mugoba.
On Monday, retired Brigadier-General Livingstone Chineka threatened post-election war if Zanu PF lost the polls, warning former liberation war fighters would take up arms against the MDC-T if it wins.
Eldred Masunungure, a political science lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, said in any democratic society there is need for division of labour.
“In a democracy, there is need for division of labour. The military has a specific role, that of defending the state from external threats, while the civilians should take part in the political domain of the state,” Masunungure said. “The problem in Zimbabwe is that there has been inclusion of the security sector into the political domain which resulted in the politicisation of the military domain.”
Masunungure also said in a normal democracy, there should be a clear distinction between the role of the military and that of elected public officials.
However, four years after the three political parties in the now expired coalition government agreed to implement critical reforms and draw up an implementation matrix that would allow for credible, free and fair elections including security sector reform, most of the reforms, among them security sector changes, failed to see the light of day. If anything, Zanu PF dug in its heels, making it clear it has no intention to reform the security sector.
According to the implementation matrix, security sector reform would also be implemented on a continuous basis. Parties agreed to ensure the state security organs, among them the Zimbabwe Republic Police, Central Intelligence Organisation and the Zimbabwe National Army would comply with the Global Political Agreement.
Zimbabwe Democracy Institute director Pedzisai Ruhanya said the state security has always been the driving force behind Zanu PF and Mugabe’s rule.
“The state security apparatus has been deeply involved in the politics of the country and has been the vanguard that defends Mugabe from the opposition,” Ruhanya said.
The security sector infamously participated in a brutal campaign ahead of the June 2008 presidential poll run-off which saved Mugabe after he lost to Tsvangirai in the first round. As the coalition government comes to an end, the military again this time around played a key role to ensure Mugabe and Zanu PF’s political survival.