Thursday, 7 December 2017

Is Zimbabwe to become a Democracy?

All Zimbabweans are optimistic that we are heading for a new beginning. So now that we are sober after celebrating Mugabe’s departure, should we now say we are in a new Zimbabwe?
Military Rule looks to remain

What normally guides a new beginning is the prescription provided by the new comers in their manifesto. The manifesto then becomes a yardstick of measuring the progress. Here we do not have that luxury, so far,  we are guessing aided by the new president’s inauguration speech, press releases and announcements.

However we must point out that Emmerson Mnanagwa’s coronation has come at a very high cost for the nation. That of shredding the constitution, that which guides a nation,

Was the constitution shredded so that we can get a fresh start
before the elections?

The Zimbabweans aspirations after the success of the forceful removal of Robert Mugabe is to establish a completely new leadership and a new political system that is entirely based on the constitution, open, free and fair elections. So far there is no script that is Consistent with these new expectations other than the fact that the elections will go ahead as scheduled.

Whilst it is important that elections are held as per scheduled, it now seems to be the only way of pushing the armed forces out of the political scene. The 2018 elections could thus expedite the return of the soldiers to their barracks. The armed forces should focus on defending the country. In addition, moving forward with the elections would allow the elected government to address the social and economic crisis.

After independence, the military was made up of the ex Rhodesian Front soldiers, and ZANU and ZAPU military wings -ZANLA and ZIPRA - which created a professional Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA). For many, the ZNA had a professional image which at the time was rare in Africa. It was seen to possess professionalism rare in African armies and was not likely to interfere in politics accept in upholding the Zimbabwean constitution. It argued that it is this professionalism that prompted the Zanu PF regime to create the fifth brigade whose unrestrained approach to Gukurahundi left many people dead.

Unlike the army, it was the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and the Central Intelligent Organisation (CIO) who were the political instruments of ZANU PF.

Far from it, since Zimbabwe’s Independence in 1980, the whole of the security sector, particularly the ZNA, has waded into the country’s political affairs, shredding their constitutional mandate to pieces and turning themselves into kingmakers.

Therefore this transitional process will benefit Zanu-PF leaving the MDC out in the cold at the expense of democracy. This is an issue of concern because we do not have a national framework guiding our nation right now.

Zimbabwe’s supreme law as well as the Defence Forces Act prohibit the ZNA from participating in partisan politics or interfering in electoral affairs.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Organisation (ZHRO) notes with concern that this aspect of the constitution makes the army’s involvement counter the democratic principle that it is meant to uphold.

The shredding of the 2013 constitution - which was strongly endorsed by the people of Zimbabwe - will have terrible, if not horrific consequences for all of us. 

The guiding ideology that shapes the Zimbabwe military is that of nationalism dating back to the time of the liberation struggle. Within the patriotic history, liberation war credentials become the source and qualification for anyone to occupy political office in Zimbabwe. The current situation cascades from this liberation war tradition, thereby the glorification of Mnanagwa as the leader of the state, who is also the commander in chief of the armed forces is inculcated on the military.

“Let bygones be bygones” said Mnangagwa - yet we cannot afford to forget that the Zimbabwean military has played an active role in violent post colonial practices. What emerges poignantly from this coup is that within the top leadership of the military, there is a deliberate conflation of loyalty to Zanu PF and individuals loyalty to President Mnangagwa.

Zimbabwe’s laws including the Defence Forces Act and the Constitution prohibit the military from participating in politics and from partisan interference in electoral affairs. The mission statement and objectives of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces clearly spell out what the army and other forces seek to achieve, which includes ensuring the protection and security of Zimbabwe’s territorial integrity and independence.

Notwithstanding the legal and formal prohibition of partisan political conduct by the army, the military leadership is openly partisan towards ZANU- PF and has dabbled in politics on several occasions thereby straining relations with civilians.

The civil society and military relations were eroded to being non-existent in 2002 when the military chiefs purported to set the criteria for persons who can be presidential candidates. Since 2002, the military has consistently threatened to veto any poll result that goes against its then preferred candidate -Robert Mugabe.

At this week’s ZHRO Wednesday Vigil, members waves placards - pushing for a Diaspora vote - Electoral reforms - explanation on the whereabouts of the missing activists and calling on the new president to show commitment on at least apologise and name all the Gukurahundi victims.

All Zimbabweans are optimistic that we are heading for a new beginning. So now that we are sober after celebrating Mugabe’s departure, should we now say we are in a new Zimbabwe?

What normally guides a new beginning is the prescription provided by the new comers in their manifesto. The manifesto then becomes a yardstick of measuring the progress. Here we do not have that luxury, so far,  we are guessing aided by the new president’s inauguration speech, press releases and announcements.

However we must point out that Emmerson Mnanagwa’s coronation has come at a very high cost for the nation. That of shredding the constitution, that which guides a nation,

Was the constitution shredded so that we can get a fresh start
before the elections?

The Zimbabweans aspirations after the success of the forceful removal of Robert Mugabe is to establish a completely new leadership and a new political system that is entirely based on the constitution, open, free and fair elections. So far there is no script that is Consistent with these new expectations other than the fact that the elections will go ahead as scheduled.

Whilst it is important that elections are held as per scheduled, it now seems to be the only way of pushing the armed forces out of the political scene. The 2018 elections could thus expedite the return of the soldiers to their barracks. The armed forces should focus on defending the country. In addition, moving forward with the elections would allow the elected government to address the social and economic crisis.

After independence, the military was made up of the ex Rhodesian Front soldiers, and ZANU and ZAPU military wings -ZANLA and ZIPRA - which created a professional Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA). For many, the ZNA had a professional image which at the time was rare in Africa. It was seen to possess professionalism rare in African armies and was not likely to interfere in politics accept in upholding the Zimbabwean constitution. It argued that it is this professionalism that prompted the Zanu PF regime to create the fifth brigade whose unrestrained approach to Gukurahundi left many people dead.

Unlike the army, it was the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and the Central Intelligent Organisation (CIO) who were the political instruments of ZANU PF.

Far from it, since Zimbabwe’s Independence in 1980, the whole of the security sector, particularly the ZNA, has waded into the country’s political affairs, shredding their constitutional mandate to pieces and turning themselves into kingmakers.

Therefore this transitional process will benefit Zanu-PF leaving the MDC out in the cold at the expense of democracy. This is an issue of concern because we do not have a national framework guiding our nation right now.

Zimbabwe’s supreme law as well as the Defence Forces Act prohibit the ZNA from participating in partisan politics or interfering in electoral affairs.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Organisation (ZHRO) notes with concern that this aspect of the constitution makes the army’s involvement counter the democratic principle that it is meant to uphold.

The shredding of the 2013 constitution - which was strongly endorsed by the people of Zimbabwe - will have terrible, if not horrific consequences for all of us. 

“We have not been singing - ‘Mugabe must go’- meaning Mugabe the person - but we want the whole ZANU-PF system whose leadership was Mugabe and his cronies to go - In as far as we are concerned only Mugabe the person has gone but the whole ZANU-PF system is still intact and is now being led by the one who was deputy dictator - Emmerson (The crocodile) Mnangagwa - who has been Mugabe's right hand man for more than 50 years. The whole system must go” - said one protester

The guiding ideology that shapes the Zimbabwe military is that of nationalism dating back to the time of the liberation struggle. Within the patriotic history, liberation war credentials become the source and qualification for anyone to occupy political office in Zimbabwe. The current situation cascades from this liberation war tradition, thereby the glorification of Mnanagwa as the leader of the state, who is also the commander in chief of the armed forces is inculcated on the military.

“Let bygones be bygones” said Mnangagwa - yet we cannot afford to forget that the Zimbabwean military has played an active role in violent post colonial practices. What emerges poignantly from this coup is that within the top leadership of the military, there is a deliberate conflation of loyalty to Zanu PF and individuals loyalty to President Mnangagwa.

Zimbabwe’s laws including the Defence Forces Act and the Constitution prohibit the military from participating in politics and from partisan interference in electoral affairs. The mission statement and objectives of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces clearly spell out what the army and other forces seek to achieve, which includes ensuring the protection and security of Zimbabwe’s territorial integrity and independence.

Notwithstanding the legal and formal prohibition of partisan political conduct by the army, the military leadership is openly partisan towards ZANU- PF and has dabbled in politics on several occasions thereby straining relations with civilians.

The civil society and military relations were eroded to being non-existent in 2002 when the military chiefs purported to set the criteria for persons who can be presidential candidates. Since 2002, the military has consistently threatened to veto any poll result that goes against its then preferred candidate -Robert Mugabe.

At this week’s ZHRO Wednesday Vigil, members waves placards - pushing for a Diaspora vote - Electoral reforms - explanation on the whereabouts of the missing activists and calling on the new president to show commitment on at least apologise and name all the Gukurahundi victims.

These extremely partisan political statements by the military are a subversion of the will of the people and a vitiation of elections as an expression of democratic choice. Defence Forces Commander, Constantine Chiwenga, in a manner that could unduly influence elections, has publicly predicted resounding electoral victory for ZANU-PF presidential candidate, Robert Mugabe in the past.

If Zimbabwe - under the Presidency of Mnanagwa - is to genuinely prepare for open elections that are free and fair, and where violence or intimidation play no part, then reform and transformation of the ZNA, and other security sector branches is of paramount importance.

ZHRO urges the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to urgently engage the ZNA with a view to restore professionalism, independence and non partisanship to the military and to completely divorce the military from all political interference.

These extremely partisan political statements by the military are a subversion of the will of the people and a vitiation of elections as an expression of democratic choice. Defence Forces Commander, Constantine Chiwenga, in a manner that could unduly influence elections, has publicly predicted resounding electoral victory for ZANU-PF presidential candidate, Robert Mugabe in the past.

If Zimbabwe - under the Presidency of Mnanagwa - is to genuinely prepare for open elections that are free and fair, and where violence or intimidation play no part, then reform and transformation of the ZNA, and other security sector branches is of paramount importance.

ZHRO urges the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to urgently engage the ZNA with a view to restore professionalism, independence and non partisanship to the military and to completely divorce the military from all political interference.

Mnangagwa will always be associated with all the darkest times of Zimbabwean history - especially Gukurahundi and the 2002 and 2008 Electoral violence

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