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What kind of government are we?

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Institutional or procedural side of the rule of law identifies three main pillars of the State which are the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. The media are increasingly being recognised as the other pillar, albeit informally though.

The pillars’ influence in safeguarding the rule of law varies from country to country depending on the system of government in place.

Harmonising the three pillars is critical in maintaining checks and balance. It brings and ensures orderliness.

In Zimbabwe though, the security establishment has emerged as another pillar of the State and this is the tragedy of our times.

The harmony has been lost. Security arms of the State which in many democracies are subservient to civilian control have escaped from their barracks to set up a parallel power structure which has emerged stronger than the system of governance which our Constitution claims we are.

In fact, political scientists should be looking at a fresh term to describe the political structure obtaining in the country where generals, police bosses and intelligence chiefs can meet and come up with policy positions which have a fundamental bearing on the running of the State.

Recent comments by senior army official Brigadier-General Douglas Nyikayaramba that President Robert Mugabe should rule for life have sent alarm bells ringing on where power now resides in the country.

To add to this, Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri was quoted in the media making threatening noises to people who support the purported agenda of imperialists.

“Anybody trying to bring in foreign ideas will have the shock of their lives, we don’t support them,” he said in an article published in The Herald on Monday. Whatever that meant, this, frankly speaking, has a chilling effect on the MDC-T and civic society groups.

Even Zanu PF stalwarts are singing in chorus to these mantras. Party spokesman Rugare Gumbo’s comments to NewsDay this week are emblematic.

“Who is sponsoring the MDC-T? Britain, America, European Union and you want our security to align with imperialists? When we are being attacked, the security should just keep quiet?”

But the securocrats’ role is more than just flexing political muscle of compulsion to perpetuate President Mugabe’s rule.

It extends to them getting involved in business matters, conflict resolution among political protagonists and policy direction.

It is not uncommon these days to hear business leaders talking of a “good meeting with JOC” which resolved long-standing problems.

There are others who say the inverse. The unfortunate thing is that these business leaders have come to accept the securocrats as formal institutions of governance with greater powers than respective ministries responsible for industry, commerce and trade.

There is more. Police chiefs and army commanders have of late raised alarm over poor budgetary support from the fiscus.

They do not have to go through their respective ministries of Home Affairs and Defence who control the budget allocations for the police and the army.

Common sense would denote that the ministers should agitate for better funding, but securocrats make direct demands for a bigger portion of the pie.

Do they need a minister to superintend over their activities? In a democracy, they need this authority, but ours is not a democracy. It is something else and I am still trying to figure out what it is.

The language and norms of the men in uniform is increasingly being adopted by senior civil servants.

The bureaucrats now appear to be singing from the same hymn sheets as security bosses and their friends and enemies are the same.

They have a strong alliance that appears to be competing with elected ministers from the government they work in.

In a normal system, the senior civil servants cannot abrogate themselves the powers to chastise ministers in public. In our government, this is very possible because the civil servants draw power from elsewhere.

They are part of the parallel system to what we call government here. Zimbabweans have come to accept this attack on institutions of governance as normal.

This is not normal and it must be rejected. As a country we are wading in dangerous waters where we are slowly building institutions that would be difficult to dismantle notwithstanding the change in political leadership.

We are creating a culture of impunity and crass disregard of the Constitution.

What kind of government are we?

Please send your feedback to vkahiya@zimind.co.zw

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