Recent claims by Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa that no person outside the chain of military command is eligible for salute by service chiefs should not go unchallenged as they are without precedent.
The remarks, which were made during a question-and-answer session in Parliament on Wednesday, seem to have been designed to give credence to previous claims by the country’s top securocrats that they would not salute anyone without liberation war credentials, and precisely our own Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
Looking into the issue more closely, one cannot help but conclude that it’s more of a personality than policy and protocol issue.
Is Tsvangirai by virtue of him being Prime Minister and leader of government business and Council of Ministers not in the line of command? Or, is it a question of not being in line of command or being a Zanu PF cadre?
Isn’t it curious that Mnangagwa can say with a straight face that military chiefs salute him because he is in the line of command rather than Tsvangirai — a whole Premier?
If one were just to go back a few years in history, President Robert Mugabe used to be Prime Minister under the now late President Canaan Banana.
As Premier, President Mugabe used to receive full military honours as Head of Government back then. Is Tsvangirai’s case any different?
Given the above scenario, one can easily be forgiven for concluding the bone of contention is political party affiliation rather than this so-called straitjacket.
In any case, isn’t it treasonous to refuse to salute a head of government business and leader of the Council of Ministers?
On another note one is tempted to believe Mnangagwa was merely parroting a tired and treacherous Zanu PF line that because he does not have liberation war credentials, Tsvangirai is a security threat and therefore does not deserve recognition.
If that’s the yardstick, one then wonders who in 50 years to come would be eligible to be saluted and, better still, considered as candidate for Head of State and Government considering most of those who actively participated in the liberation struggle would have turned octogenarians.
With the current army top brass seemingly bent on subverting constitutional wishes of the electorate through a coup d’état, could it not be said to be absolutely right for the general foot soldier to cherish and heed the words of the Head of State and Commander-in- Chief of the Defence Forces which he uttered in April 1980:
“Let us beat our swords into ploughshares, forgive others and forget,” then Prime Minister Mugabe said, as he ushered in the spirit of a new country — Zimbabwe — and as colonial Rhodesia was disappearing into nothingness.
One wonders whether the Mnangagwa and military chiefs of this world will not be forced to eat humble pie when people decide to speak out.