Will the Zimbabwe army kill citizens for ZANU PF? Recognising that times are changing …

Posted: August 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

“Zimbabwe service chiefs…doing it for their selfish ends”

“An army marches on its stomach” Napoleon Bonaparte

It is deeply saddening that every time we approach elections, Zimbabweans are always intimidated by the fact that if ZANU PF were to lose elections, the military would take over the country. History has it that ZANU PF likes to use the military against anyone who threatens their stay in power and on that basis it is understandable why Zimbabweans live in fear of being thrashed by servicemen.  What Zimbabweans must know, however, is that times have changed and chances of the army taking a stand against the people have been reduced dramatically. There are examples from all over the world where ruling regimes have relied on the mighty powers of the army to keep them in power but in most of them, victory has ultimately favored the side of democrats. Zimbabweans must understand that all the threats that have been made before come from a few service chiefs and are only meant to intimidate them – they have no real substance.

A history of violence in the Zimbabwean army

My recent post on putting up with challenges of the Zimbabwe GNU mentioned that Zimbabwe, like many post-colonial states, inherited repressive state security apparatus geared towards the protection of the ruling regime.  No doubt, we saw the brutality of the army in Matabeleland and Midlands where their loyalty towards the then ruling ZANU PF was used to deal with the opposition ZAPU and its supporters. We came away with an interpretation of the Zimbabwean army as brutal by nature. Adding to this fear was the violent way they were said to have dealt with civilians in Mozambique and DRC during their suspicious interventions there. We also know that from time to time in Zimbabwe the army has been called to use brutality to quell demonstrations from workers, university students and the MDC while in opposition and even once part of the GNU. Since the formation of the MDC, there have been multiple threats from the military bosses who say they won’t salute anyone besides a ZANU PF winner. Political analysts in Zimbabwe also comment on the recent recruitment exercises in the army, which are intended to intimidate the population, seeing that there is an election looming.  It is on this basis that the army of Zimbabwe is widely perceived as brutal and uncaring against citizens.

Changing times for changing armies

In Zimbabwe in 2000 I strongly believed that the military was going to crush any public dissent against ZANU PF’s rigging of the general elections. Those elections posed the greatest challenge to ZANU PF hegemony since the beginning of its rule in 1980. Most of the army personnel deployed at the time came from battalions that were based in the DRC dealing with conflict there. This meant that they did not properly understand the politics at home – my friends in the army told us of how President Mugabe addressed them in DRC camps: telling them how enemies of Zimbabwe were using MDC to cause dissent in order to clear their way to invade Zimbabwe.  As a result of these manipulated

“..no longer interested in beating people”

political briefings, the army came to see MDC as an enemy and the deployment across the country to crush possible dissent after 2000 election results were announced as a national duty to avoid invasion. The Zimbabwean military in DRC also had no idea of how difficult things were back at home as they were paid in US dollars and very well compared to ordinary Zimbabweans who at the time were facing  hard times. They were often seen on their army breaks from Congo spending large sums of dollars shopping and drinking with friends. Their status in the society improved and in their eyes, MDC was a threat that promised to reduce their status. At that time I believe the MDC leadership made the right call by shelving demonstrations in favour of a negotiated solution that involved SADC sending South Africa’s Deputy President, Jacob Zuma to Harare to calm down temperatures. The army’s purge was avoided.

From 2000 to 2012

I believe that Zimbabweans must now realize that times have changed and the army is in no position to sustain repression against citizens. The DRC days are gone and now the army is suffering just like anyone else. For the 2008 elections, even Mugabe knew that the army was in no position to be used against the people; hence a plot was hatched to make sure that opposition leaders like Morgan Tsvangirai were “exiled” to South Africa immediately after those elections in order to avoid having him call for mass demonstrations. In the meantime, ZANU PF was busy reorganizing and crushing internal descent with limited disturbance from the MDC. Today, threats from the army come from a few faceless fanatics like Brigadier Douglas Nyikaramba, who are just singing for their last supper against the winds of change. It’s well known that people like him and other senior ZANU PF loyalists are making a killing from the country’s resources and a change of guard will mean an end to the feast. Last year, the Minister of Defence, Emerson Mnangagwa, who is heavily involved in the diamonds industry, allegedly made himself US$4 million in a single deal by acting as middleman in the sale of the precious stones to shady characters in South Africa. This does not mean the rest of the military men are benefiting, though, and they are very much aware of that fact. The family of friend of mine who lives near KGVI

“…Soldier shaking a hand with a protestor”

military base cooks extra meals from time to time for some army personnel who skip the barracks at night to eat at his home in exchange for small regular army supplies like soap and cooking oil. It is clear that the rest of the army is struggling like anyone else. Also, it was easy for ZANU PF to use the Fifth Brigade in Matabeleland and Midlands because this section of the army was comprised mostly of one ethnic group and was being used against another ethnic group in the southern parts of the country. Today it would be very difficult for Mugabe to do the same, both because the army is heavily integrated and because dissent is nationwide. Zimbabwean military men are aware of these situations and I am sure they will be professional enough to realize that they will be serving selfish interests of the few if they decide against democracy. Ordinary Zimbabweans must do themselves a favor by not succumbing to baseless threats of senior army members and instead, they must continue building the bridge between themselves and the rest of the army.

  1. Rejoice kaNgwenya says:

    The repression of the people in Syria has given rise to once rag tag ‘Free Syrian People’ army, but now standing toe-to-toe with Assad’s murderous forces. It’s not like Zimbabwean citizens cannot resist ‘ZANU-PF military occupation’. The fact that we went to Botswana, Zambia, Ethiopia to organise the armed resistance against the colonial forces actually means we are not short of plans. A regular army is nothing against the people’s will to emancipate themselves.

    • Mathula says:

      It is clear across the world that the people’s power is King. However, what lacks sometimes is the ability of people to overcome their fears, hence my observations in the article. Also, many think that the regime at home is careless and would try to go it the Gaddafi/Assad way which could take a lot of time spilling blood. But as they say, freedom will never be served in a silver plate. It would be interesting to know what most of the army guys think!

  2. jacob says:

    i think that your analysis of the situation is correct and there is need to encourage the public not to be afraid of the zna and to teach them what the responsibilities of the army are, that of protecting zimbabweans from external forces.the mdc is not and will never be an enermy of the people. thought-provoking piece.

  3. Are we assuming that like the piper, the army will not play the tune of their master if at the critical moment they receive or are promised a windfall? Who knows what the ‘missing’ diamond revenues may be a contigency for? Have the army matured enough not to fall for this given that even the MDC legislators have been falling over each other in the scramble for parliamentary perks whilst the rest of the population starves.

  4. Mathula says:

    @Freedom Trapped.
    Interesting points you raise here. The most important one is the lack of accountability about the revenues from the diamonds. We know how this money was used to fuel the conflict in Congo. It was a similar set up with Zimbabwe where army generals and other influential circles of DRC used the money to fund the war that has killing many people. It is the duty of everyone in Zimbabwe to make sure the same does not happen. We need to lobby our legislators to be more open about this issue. There is massive corruption happening in Marange and as long as we are not clear on that, fears will always be there that these revenues might find themselves funding brewing conflict in the country. It is sad that some sections of the international communities are said to be involved in this. Has the army matured,,,I think so. there are a lot of people in the service who speak in private circles that they wont accept chaos. SADC is also watching. We ought to be strong enough to see that our country needs us to build relationships with the rest of the army so we can heal.. I think its possible but we must not sit down and watch…lets all work hard to make sure that we get results that we desire where everybody is equal and where everybody understands their roles given by the nature of being Zimbabwean.

  5. if you love to witness progress,there is no point if you are a soldier and you are part of the suffering in this nation,then take that order to kill people in the position of aiding Zanu PF.the time has come to beef up your minds and think about it. when was ZANU PF BORN,WHAT ABOUT progress in our land.as well when there is no zanu pf,what will happen,think about some other nations,had those old political parties and where are they now,are they not happy about booting those old horses out……….. food for thought,let us unite and plan to progress our nation,it is our passion,our land,our home,as well this is for the next generation. As a father you work hard for children,make sure when you no longer exist,they have something to cry on. viva new ZIMBABWE. RISE NOW AND PROGRESS.

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