Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi must have left anyone believing that the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) was an apolitical outfit with no doubt that the force is deeply steeped in the politics of the country.
His attempt to justify the ZDF’s involvement in politics was futile. Everyone with a basic understanding of the English language must have read with shock and alarm his statement in the ZDF supplement in The Herald yesterday.
He said: “The Zimbabwe Defence Forces is not playing any part in the country’s politics, but the ZDF will not stand and fold its arms if the former colonial powers and others who do not want us to be independent beg sponsoring agents to be involved in the politics of the country.”
This is a clear-cut contradiction in terms, and, the fact that Sekeramayi juxtaposed two highly self-contradictory statements means his mission was to mislead.
The ZDF is either in politics or it is not; once politicians define their rivals as colonially sponsored and invite the soldiers to take sides, they have involved them in politics.
When liberation movements are challenged at polls by citizens seeking democracy and working according to the country’s constitution, the former liberators always say that their rivals are foreign sponsored, even when they themselves always depend on foreign sponsorship.
Everyone knows what our defence forces have done in the past 15 years to forestall democracy.
They have openly declared their political inclination and have led definitive episodes through which it became clear that they were against electoral democracy.
They openly declared in 2002 that they would not accept the country be run by anyone with no liberation war credentials.
In the same Herald supplement, ZDF Commander General Constantine Chiwenga buttressed the force’s political streak by linking the history of the ZDF to the country’s history and declaring in highly politicised terms the role the force should play in the running of the country. Sekeramayi, a veteran politician and supposed presidential aspirant, was truly playing politics in echoing Chiwenga’s exhortation.
“So, the ZDF will be very alert and those various groups, which have been sponsored to try and destabilise the country by calling for riots, calling for job stay-aways and so forth, you can be sure that we as ZDF will not simply say that is none of our business because part of our business is to make sure we are able to defend the territorial integrity, sovereignty, independence and the nation of Zimbabwe.”
Sekeramayi should be able to distinguish between territorial integrity and people’s civil liberties. Citizens have the right to job actions, to demonstrate when they feel their birthright is being downtrodden by a rapacious elite that is getting fatter by the day at the expense of the common people.
He is justifying the use of military force against unarmed civilians who are minding their own business. One of the values of the nationalist movement and the liberation struggle was that of “one man, one vote”. It was that value which sent thousands of our boys and girls to the war.
But, ironically, those who survived that war, who are now mostly in the ZDF and government, are trampling with impunity that value.
Soldiers should always remain in the barracks; there is absolutely no excuse to involve them in politics.