Unintended effects of breakdown of rule of law

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Recently there was an appalling video of a group of ruling party youths savagely beating sorry looking elderly villagers for organising and attending a Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) meeting.

This event in itself is neither extraordinary nor unique, but is par for the Zimbabwe election cycle.

It was and is criminal, morally repugnant and culturally abominable.

Yet again such acts are nothing new in Zimbabwe such is the gratuitous nature of political violence.

Political violence is not only about the violence that can be used to intimidate and deter opposition activity in Zimbabwe it also disingenuously fosters a subculture premised on the disregard of the law, morality and all social mores

The criminality and wanton disregard of the law, humanity and morality in the video is the same sad ill that pervades all strands of the state in Zimbabwe.

 This attitude can be traced back to the origins of the state itself in the liberation struggle.

 One can argue that it was a righteous and justified war. And like all wars it brought the best and the worst to the fore.

It attracted hard, even callous men and women who were not squeamish about spilling blood be it innocent or otherwise; people with a natural disregard for human life and even a proclivity for taking it.

The liberation struggle itself was waged by both sides especially the nationalist forces without regard to the law, morality or culture.

This point is borne out by the ghastly atrocities perpetrated by our liberators on civilians at the slightest excuse.

One can add to this how callously the guerrilla fighters themselves were led to the slaughter like at Nyadzonia and Chimoi by incompetent leaders.

The nationalist leaders were never philosopher kings or ideologues.

 Being thus wanting they were not nation builders, soldiers perhaps, rabble rousers certainly but not nation builders.

When the nationalist took power in 1980 they did so with neither an intrinsic regard for nor appreciation of the constitution or constitutionalism.

These were men and women, who were guided by neither the law nor principle.

They had absolutely no pretentions to the higher qualities of statesmanship or honour.

In short our nascent republic had the grim misfortune to be led by a choice collection of people with neither a moral compass nor aspirations to honour, duty or right.

They were to a man guided by self-interest at its most primordial, the kind that kills the golden goose.

Being neither scholars nor practitioners of the nation state they would be guided by what they deemed fit.

This entails the lack of a basic understanding of why the instruments and infrastructure of a state such as the constitution exist. 

This almost reflexive disregard for the law bred an all pervasive criminality firstly in Zanu PF ranks and then in the state itself.

Zanu PF initiated the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF), Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and civil service (all the arms of government) into lawlessness.

These pivotal arms of government were all sent on illegal errands throughout the history of Zimbabwe.

They came back immoral, hardened and imbued with a deep-seated disdain for the law.

A case in point is the sinister declaration by the late, then commander of the ZDF, General Vitalis Zvinavashe in 2002 that the security sector would not salute (recognise) a leader “…with a different agenda that threatens the very existence of our sovereignty”.

This was clearly illegal and immoral, no serving soldier worth their salt should ever threaten the sovereignty of the people thus.

In an ironic twist it was Robert Mugabe the then beneficiary of these words who would find out first hand just serious the general was on that day.

 The general populace was also initiated through the murderous politics of the day and most ingeniously of all, the land reform exercise.

A key tenet here was the instilling of a total disregard of and for the law.

The law was shown to be little more than window dressing. It could be set side easily to the mutual benefit and profit of all.

 In Zanu PF power circles, the law is regarded as a western curiosity or excess.

Our leaders believe that the law is a useful idiot, that therefore as a leader you would be a great fool to be constrained by it but an even bigger one to not make use of it. 

Those who settled on the farms know that High Court and Supreme Court rulings were ignored by the state in order to give them land.

Now are these very same people going to respect the outcome of a ballot box if they perceive it as being detrimental to their economic prospects?

It’s hardly likely. This criminalisation created a fearsome cadre at the beck and call of Zanu PF. A cadre that really knows no restraint, morality or law.

It is not by accident that no one within the ranks of the ZDF, ZRP, CIO or civil service has spoken out against the various terrors that have been visited upon this hapless land.

They really do not see anything wrong with what has been done in this country.

Nor is it by chance that no one not even those who have left Zanu  PF have told the nation and world at large about what really happened around the 27 June 2008 bloodletting.

It’s because those who were involved like Jonathan Moyo, Joyce Mujuru, Saviour Kasukuwere etc in the planning and execution of those atrocities have no moral compass whatsoever.

They feel no revulsion or shame for what happened- not the human rights abuse and certainly not the election steal itself.

They are only peeved to find themselves on the wrong end of the feeding trough.

Given another  tilt at history they would all do it again.

At the end of the day Zimbabwe has a substantial percentage of its population, which does not respect nor uphold the rule of law. It is a nation founded on, and sustained by negative values.

For Zanu PF this is authoritarianism’s utopia.

Tragically this breeds entropy in the state because no one knows how anybody else will act.

There is no predictability. If all arms of government upheld the constitution, then this document would tell us how they would act in any given situation.

The police would arrest and arraign any and all criminals before the courts.

The ZDF would defend and uphold the said document against all enemies foreign and domestic and  would only deploy on the orders of the commander-in-chief.

The civil servants tasked with running the elections would do so sans fear or favour.

The CIO would gather intelligence for the defence of the state not Zanu PF.

 Their raison d’etre would be counter intelligence and not ‘counter-opposition’.

None of these arms of government are doing this and certainly nobody knows what they would do in the future because they are not guided by the law or morality. 

And most importantly they do not have a culture of upholding the rule of law and constitutionalism.

Therefore, nobody knows the terms of reference that guide our security sector.

All we know is that they are not the constitution nor any other piece of paper.

It is self-evident that constitutionalism and the rule of law give a state stability.

This is because everyone from the head of state downwards to the private citizen acts within the laws of the land in any given circumstance.

There is, therefore, predictability and stability.

What Zanu PF has done is create the very antithesis of this desirable end state. Zimbabwe is in a perpetual state of political entropy.

So long Zanu PF is at the helm this entropy will continue. In the near to short term   Zanu PF benefits but in the long term this entropy will come to threaten   Zanu PF itself.

This is because their hold on power is not derived from the constitution or any process therein but from the illegal actions of the security sector in buttressing it.

Should the security sector particularly the army feel otherwise then it’s an unceremonious goodbye and goodnight to Zanu PF.

Zanu PF’s grip on power is not based on a clearly defined foundation such as constitutionality but on an indefinable system of murky alliances, patronage and outright criminality.

It goes no deeper than the perfidious and criminal loyalty of the security sector.

As a means of maintaining state power it might even be durable, but it is not stable because nobody quite knows how anybody else will act.

Even the top army officers don’t really know how their subordinates will act.

They have been used too often to break the laws of the land for anyone to seriously believe that they uphold the constitution in any way or form.

Will they obey an order? It is hoped they will but nobody really knows for they have been reduced to a lawless rabble.

The reports of robberies, assaults and even rapes around all the recent army deployments in the high density suburbs bear this sentiment out.

This shows that the defence forces’ rank and file have a deep-seated contempt for the laws of the land.

Not only have they been captured by Zanu PF, but also thoroughly corrupted and criminalised perhaps to the extent of being even beyond the control of the latter.

A fact that that has escaped the attention of our leaders is that a constitution and concomitantly constitutionalism protects not only the citizen of a country but also its leaders.

 Indeed, one can argue that constitutionalism came about not because of the people but their rulers.

Rulers needed a means of managing the frustrations of their subjects and thus ensuring their own survival. 

Subjects being the majority would inevitably overthrow their unpopular, failed leaders; a constitution merely guarantees that this process is done with due process and sans bloodshed.

This is because it empowers the people with a lawful means of removing unpopular leaders without resort to lawless violence which often ends with the death of the recent first person.

Constitutionalism precludes the need for coups.

Once Mugabe cast this fine consideration to the dogs it became inevitable that it would all end ingloriously in coup.

Zimbabwe, therefore, exists on a powder keg and will remain so until constitutionalism becomes the foundational tenet of the state, failure to acknowledge this is at all our peril.

Constitutionality and the rule of law protect everybody and the state itself.

Our leaders have missed this wisdom, perhaps one day the chickens shall come home to rooster like they did for one Robert Gabriel Mugabe of Kutama Village.

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