Friday we carried a story titled “Ignore Nyikayaramba—Zanu PF” in which Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo was making a feeble attempt to pretend that Brigadier-General Douglas Nyikayaramba’s political statements were “personal” and not microcosmic of Zanu PF and the military’s attitude against democracy in this country.
By saying “His statements therefore must not be regarded as the views or legal position of the ZDF (Zimbabwe Defence Forces) or Zanu PF because he is not the spokesperson of ZDF or Zanu PF,” Gumbo was trying to hide behind a finger as it were.
Who is Douglas Nyikayaramba? A Brigadier-General and a confessed Zanu PF man through and through.
Zanu PF has also claimed him as their own and this was epitomised by the furore he caused at Copac as a Zanu PF representative. Zanu PF co-chairperson in Copac, Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana, is on record saying the Brigadier-General is their own.
The significance of all this is that Nyikayaramba is not an ordinary man whose utterances can be easily brushed away. As a Brigadier-General and influential member of Zanu PF, he is an opinion leader — an individual whose ideas and behaviour serve as a model to others.
Opinion leaders like Nyikayaramba influence the attitudes and behaviour change in their followers.
Inevitably, when Nyikayaramba proclaims that the military will not recognise leaders with no liberation war background he is not expressing individual sentiments, but swaying the opinion of those in the military and in Zanu PF. And this is not by default, it is by design.
And Gumbo misses the irony when he says, “Brigadier-General Nyikayaramba is not a service chief as alleged, and his statement does not represent the views of service chiefs, or even Zanu PF and the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.” Service chiefs and Zanu PF are on record for uttering the same sentiments parroted by Nyikayaramba.
In The Herald of Thursday June 23, Nyikayaramba is quoted saying that security forces and Zanu PF are inseparable. And the Brigadier-General’s language is couched in the first person plural to emphasise that he does not speak for himself only: “We cannot keep quiet. We will continue speaking and as the security forces, we will not sit back and watch things going wrong,” he is quoted in the same issue of The Herald.
So, Nyikayaramba is not only expressing the sentiments of the service chiefs, he is also keeping them alive.
If Nyikayaramba was an ordinary person whose utterances were insignificant, his case would never have been taken to Parliament as a subject for debate.
For us to make progress and move forward towards democracy, it is important that the military stays out of all political parties and they should be barred from interfering in election processes.