Military intervention in Zimbabwe: Is this for us?

By Isaac Mutasa

My fellow Zimbabweans, I do not intend to spoil the hilarious and ecstatic mood engulfing us  following the military intervention in our country. Who would not celebrate  Robert Mugabe`s downfall given the economic meltdown and his attempt to elevate his wife to the position of vice-president? For some of us who have been fighting  not only him but the entire Zanu PF system for decades, we however celebrate with cautious excitement as we are not yet out of the woods.

Isaac Mutasa

Our struggle for democracy in post independent  Zimbabwe is more against a political system than a political agent. The late Josiah Magama Tongogara also used to emphasise that the liberation war was more against racial discrimination and inequality than the white man per se.

When Zimbabwe attained independence we found ourselves in the same euphoria that obtains today, nothing else mattered but celebration of our independence. Lessons from other countries that had won independence much earlier did not matter, it was our time to celebrate.

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We cared less as the constitution was amended several times, giving more and more power to Mugabe all the time. We cared less when people were murdered in Matabeleland a few years after independence. We closed our ears and eyes to anything that would disturb our celebratory mood.

The army, war veterans and Emmerson Mnangagwa have been very crucial in keeping Mugabe in power. Together they ensured that opposition supporters were tortured, killed, their houses and properties burnt.

The army generals infamously declared that they would never salute anyone without liberation war credentials in particular reference to Morgan Tsvangirai whose party called for security sector reforms to ensure impartiality of the defence forces. What has Mugabe done wrong that his key allies have abandoned him?

Fundamentally, is it anything wrong he did in his party, in government or both? If it is in his party, then we have a problem Zimbabwe because it means our army is deeply embedded in Zanu Pf politics and therefore the generals will not salute anyone from outside their party. In fact the generals made it clear that they were against the purges going on in ZANU PF.

They even have a preferred candidate to take over the leadership of ZANU PF and by extension to be next president of the republic. Where do our preferred leaders as ordinary citizens fit in this scheme of things? Will this army accept Morgan Tsvangirai, Tendai Biti, Thokozani Khupe etc? Is it even their business to decide who becomes president?

I implore my fellow Zimbabweans to note that what the army is resolving are factional fights in ZANU PF. The army has taken sides, the Lacoste faction to be precise, and they will ensure that Mnangagwa wins any future election even if it means short and long sleeves, if you know what I mean. This is not about democracy and ensuring that you and I can vote whoever we want freely.

This is about people fighting for their own survival, some (you know who) were facing imminent arrest so they had to act fast to grab power. We have not heard the army declare that Zimbabweans should choose parties and leaders of their choice and that as a professional army they will salute whoever is chosen by the people. I challenge anyone to share that pronouncement with the rest of us.

This same army and war veterans will intimidate and brutalise us tomorrow as they have always done if things do not go their Mnangagwa way. That we found common interest with them in Mugabe`s departure must be understood in the context that we want him out for different reasons.

So, while we celebrate the imminent departure of Mugabe it is important to wake up to the reality that the problems we face in our country are bigger than Mugabe. Our problems are systemic and mere removal of Mugabe only to be replaced by his apprentice of five decades exposes our desperation and poverty of imagination. The system remains intact, the same old problem of a partisan army remains, the constitution remains largely unimplemented, voter registration is a mess, the ZANU PF militia aka Border Gezi youths are still very active. What has changed?

Progressive political parties and in particular the MDC-T which has repeatedly been denied victory by the war veterans and army must use this opportunity of global attention on Zimbabwe to intensify the demand for electoral and security sector reforms. Civil society must encourage and promote continued discussion of the actual Zimbabwe we want, a Zimbabwe where people can freely choose their leaders and hold them to account.

My fellow Zimbabweans, as we carry those banners thanking the ZDF, let us remind them that we need more than the departure of Mugabe, that they pronounce here and now that they will not be partisan. This is the time to make those demands.

Finally, progressive political parties must not be dragged into a government of national unity on account of ZANU PF internal problems. They will just be used again in stabilising the economy, be robbed later at elections and the poverty cycle begins all over again. A lasting solution to this crisis is total annihilation of the whole ZANU PF system in a free, fair and credible election in 2018 and no later. That is where all focus should be.

I hope I did not dampen your mood. I am also celebrating anyway but this is only a single step out of a thousand ahead. God bless you and God bless Zimbabwe!

About the author: Isaac Mutasa is a pro-democracy activist and member of the MDC-T based in Sweden writing in his own capacity. He can be contacted on Email: i[email protected]