COMMANDER of the Presidential Guard Brigade, Brigadier-General Anselem Sanyatwe is facing disciplinary action over his utterances last week to the effect that the army would intervene to deal with vendors if they fail to move out of the central business district within a week, the Zimbabwe Independent has established.
Military sources said this week Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi and some top commanders within the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) were riled by Sanyatwe’s damaging remarks which have caused national outrage and were apparently not sanctioned by the minister and his superiors in the army.
Defence sources said a process is already underway to check and verify what Sanyatwe said at the press conference last week which was attended by Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo and Harare Provincial Affairs minister Miriam Chikukwa, who chairs the Joint Operations Command (Joc) in Harare. Joc is a grouping of security forces including the army, intelligence services and police.
Although it is not yet clear whether Sanyatwe had cleared his utterances with the ZDF commander General Constantine Chiwenga, security sources said Sekeramayi and Zimbabwe National Army commander Lieutenant-General Philip Valerio Sibanda were surprised and not amused by Sanyatwe’s remarks that sought to unconstitutionally and illegally drag the security forces into what is essentially a civilian matter.
Last week Sanyatwe, flanked by Chombo and Chikukwa, said the security forces would intervene to restore order in urban areas, especially Harare, after vendors had invaded all open spaces in the city centre and were resisting removal.
“We are happy you brought the chefs from vendor organisations. I want to warn you, we don’t want to chase each other. We have the powers. Go and address your people and tell them to go to designated places,” Sanyatwe said.
The army is only called into action after all other civil alternatives have been exhausted.
In this case, neither Harare City Council and its municipal police nor the Zimbabwe Republic Police had yet been engaged to clear vendors.
According to the constitution (Section 212), the “function of the Defence Forces is to protect Zimbabwe, its people, its national security and interests and its territorial integrity and to uphold this constitution”.
Section 213(2) states that: “With the authority of the President, the Defence Forces may be deployed in Zimbabwe — in defence of Zimbabwe; in support of the Police Service in the maintenance of public order; or in support of the Police Service and other civilian authorities in the event of an emergency or disaster.
To worsen Sanyatwe’s position, this week Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa told parliament that: “Government would assist municipalities in any given set-up only when they ask for assistance from the (police’s) Law and Order section, but up to now I am not aware of any request for assistance to deal with the vendors.
“I did not see any soldiers moving around with a hailer announcing that they would forcibly remove vendors. The only policy we have is that when there is disorder like what happened during the 2008 MDC’s Final Push rallies, definitely we will unleash security forces. However, whenever there is disorder it is the duty of the police and not the army to bring law and order.”
Sekeramayi last week also said Chombo’s ministry could enlist the services of the police if it wanted to enforce council by-laws.
“The removal of vendors is the responsibility of the Ministry of Local Government and we are hoping that the minister (Chombo) and the Minister of Small to Medium Enterprises (Sithembiso Nyoni) are addressing that issue,” he said, adding that “there will be no involvement of the army”.
Zimbabwe Independent reporters who attended the graduation ceremony of Junior Staff Course Number 63 at the Zimbabwe Staff College last Friday spoke to senior defence ministry officials who indicated that Sekeramayi and Sibanda were unhappy with Sanyatwe’s remarks.
“The minister, Sekeramayi, and other senior army commanders said it publicly in the presence of Chiwenga that the army was not going to be involved in the removal of vendors,” the source said.
Sekeramayi indicated that he had not been informed of any plan to get the army to intervene in the vendors issue and apparently he was supported by senior army commanders although Chiwenga did not say anything.
Sources at the state-run broadcaster ZBC said the army has since contacted them looking for video footage of the press conference where Sanyatwe spoke in a bid to verify what he said.
Contacted for a comment, army spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Alphios Makotore said he was in a series of meetings and therefore could not comment.