HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsFrom the Editor’s bottom drawer: Is Zimbabwe breeding warlords?

From the Editor’s bottom drawer: Is Zimbabwe breeding warlords?


In all their pre-independence travails, nationalists always asserted the pre-eminence and primacy of the ballot over the bullet; one man, one vote and government by the people, for the people.

They underscored that legitimacy of a government is only through the consent of the people, and for these ideals, they were prepared to be incarcerated and even to die.

What high moral ground. Choosing who rules in any civilised society is an inalienable right and civic obligation, jealously protected by constitutions the world over.

During Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle, the military was constantly reminded that it was a spoke within the overall realm of the political pie chart.

Giants of the struggle like General Josiah Tongogara, Rex Nhongo, Nikita Mangena and Lookout Masuku always placed themselves appropriately within, and under the political panoply, never seeking to upstage that fundamental order.

They were disciplined cadres of the highest quality. At our independence, when three armies, Zanla, Zipra and the Rhodesian army, had to be integrated, some of the above commanders played a critical role in instilling discipline within the ranks of these forces, coming as they did, from previously antagonistic positions.

When discipline entailed that they salute their avowed erstwhile arch-enemies, like General Peter Walls, who then headed the new Zimbabwean army, there was no equivocation.

They rose to the occasion and lived up to their professional duty with admirable and exemplary valour.

This was the mark of true professionals, the esteemed Zimbabwean army, one of the finest armies the world had ever known. And the people were proud of the men.

Such professional behaviour aside, the Rhodesian-cum-Zimbabwean transitional conundrum would never have been overcome.

Some of the characters now at the helm of these forces, who now claim they will not salute anyone without liberation credentials, were within the ranks of this formidable force then, albeit in much lower ranks then.

They saluted General Walls, from their lowly ranks then, even though Walls never had liberation struggle credentials as he was inimically and diametrically against such liberation and fighting to the death, to prevent it.

Paradoxical as it may seem, saluting General Walls, at that time, although the right and professional thing to do, in the circumstances, in spite of conscientious objection to same, on strong feelings of revulsion, would have made unchallenged sense.

But they saluted because duty demanded that they do and they also knew that, at times, we move forward by going backwards first.

These enduring values are still true to this day and are the building blocks of nationhood. It is still the right thing to do now, and this time around without having to move backwards, because circumstances for that do not exist! Let’s be honest.

Zimbabwe is bigger than any one political figure or person, irrespective of what contribution that political figure or person may have played in the liberation struggle.

One may also ask, on what principle do those who claim that they will not salute anyone without liberation credentials base such conviction, given the above averments?

The same people saluted General Walls and many other ex-Rhodesian officers, people who did not only lack liberation credentials, but who, clearly, had anti-liberation struggle credentials and slaughtered Zimbabweans, in pursuit of such cause.

What hypocrisy . . ! Why do people want to be so politically promiscuous?

They saluted General Walls, a man who had so much blood of thousands of people and their colleagues on his hands, and now they tell us they will not salute someone without liberation struggle credentials on some feigned notion of revolutionary zeal?

Lord have mercy — what a classic case of naked perfidy!

I will tell you why they will not salute:

These people have become soldiers of fortune — sharing the spoils and privileges of independence between themselves, in a beastly feeding frenzy and they fear that a change that may entail anyone other than their fellow traveller, may threaten their privileged positions at the feeding trough, as sanity would have to be restored.

They fear having to be made to account for their contraband, loot and losing their positions at the table of patronage.

This behaviour is symptomatic of stereotypical broods of vipers, who hide their monstrous greed behind thin cloaks of feigned, super-revolutionary brinkmanship.

Presidents and prime ministers are saluted, throughout the world, as a sign of respect for the office. It’s the universal code of all professional decorum.

Those “too principled to bow to such professional dictates” can always leave the security services. Those positions are for professionals, not private militias or warlords.

Professional soldiers stick to their sworn creed of defending a country against foreign invasions. It is not for the position to suit the soldier – but the soldier to suit the position!

This applies to all securocrats. Failure to uphold this professional code is what is destabilising Zimbabwe and constituting a threat to national security, hence the need for security sector reforms.

Those that cannot strictly observe and adhere to these fundamental professional demands should simply leave the army.

They can always go and run their farms, where they don’t have to salute anyone.

If any institution should be strictly controlled by the Constitution and monitored to strictly toe the line on pain of being court-martialled or dismissed outright, it should be the securocrats.

Unless one is deliberately breeding warlords — a real recipe for security risks and destabilisation of not only Zimbabwe, but the entire region.

Of course, we also cannot help drawing inferences on the Commander-in-Chief’s silence in the face of such extravagant and clearly treasonous statements by army gurus.

And, as Zimbabweans, let us also learn to see through the fog of self-serving propaganda, separate fact from fiction and distinguish the pirate flag of speculators and gamesters from the banner of truth.

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