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Abductions: It’s the State stupid!


Guest column: Phillan Zamchiya

ZIMBABWE’S response to the callous abduction of Peter Magombeyi and other citizens is pathetic. Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo, and Information secretary Ndavaningi Mangwana have blamed the third force (outside the control of the central State) for the abduction of Magombeyi and 50 other ordinary citizens in the past weeks. It is a desperate attempt by the government to speak to an external audience based on trend features of post-colonial African States.

These features have included the emergence of third forces operating outside the central State. Yet what might add credence to this pathetic government’s view has been the sacrifice of rigour by some of Zimbabwe’s progressive academics at the altar of populism.

To emphasise, some of the progressives have been quick to characterise the post-colonial Zimbabwean State as a failed, weak and collapsed State. In the day-to-day lexicon, it resonates with lots of ululations at rallies. In addition, such simplistic reasoning attracts social media likes too. However, at an intellectual scale of understanding politics such flawed conceptualisation can backfire.

For President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s regime is not entirely dull. It aims not to target the ordinary Zimbabweans by its naked proposition of a third force. It is targeting the external levers that matter to their matrix of power.

The State targets the regional and global levers that have done well by demanding the return of Magombeyi and other abducted citizens like gallant Itai Dzamara. The Zimbabwe government is simply saying, ‘even progressive intellectuals have said we are a failed and collapsed State, so what is exceptional about the operation of third forces outside the control of the central State as happens elsewhere in failed post-colonial Africa?’ Read Sudan, Somalia and you name further.

The Zimbabwe State knows that to an external lever (be it Sadc, AU etc) it will be unconvincing for one to agree that Zimbabwe is a collapsed or failed State in the strict intellectual sense and deny entoto possibilities of the existence of a rogue third force. Reader, Zimbabwe is not an easy fit into the weak, failed or collapsed post-colonial African State. That is the starting point.

To simplify, even if you are in a remote village or in your bedroom in that tea-pot shaped Zimbabwe try to move around with a mere toy-gun (never mind a real gun) and you will see how the State cascades to where you are within a split of a second.

Yet rebels easily do that in common failed States across Africa. In Zimbabwe, armed security operatives do not and cannot operate outside the central State, but within it. Moreover, by State I do not mean an individual but the system with its contradictions.

For emphasis, Zimbabwe does not mirror the trend of private armies that completely operate out of control of the central government. In such trends, the third force would control other regions outside central State in perpetual disregard of the rule of law.

Therefore, unlike other failed States that fit the model like Somalia where third forces perpetually exist, Zimbabwe has retained a functional albeit unstable State, which must be accountable. In its form, the Zimbabwe State can even discipline and silence the rogue elements.

Never mind the fact that the relationship between the Zanu PF ruling elites and the security operatives involves collusion as well as contradictions, alliances as well as antipathies, authority as well as subordination, a central coercive superstructure exists.

Therefore, the callous abduction of Magombeyi, Dzamara and other citizens entirely rests with the reigning government.

The State must bring back many other missing citizens now without hiding behind a flimsy third force argument!

 Phillan Zamchiya writes in his personal capacity

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