Why use military force on civilians?

Emmerson Mnangagwa’s last act of 2017 was a bad decision to deploy soldiers on young protestors in Bulawayo at a church service ironically convened to celebrate the peaceful and bloodless nature of the coup of 14 November 2017.

Mthwakazi youths protesting against President Emmerson Mnangagwa in Bulawayo
Mthwakazi youths protesting against President Emmerson Mnangagwa in Bulawayo

The People’s Democratic Party restates the supremacy of the constitution which in section 59 provides for the right to petition and protest peacefully.

Demonstration is therefore a constitutional right which neither the President nor those who pretend to protect him or represent him cannot take away without a declaration of a state of emergency.

As has become the new norm the spin has come in a more stubborn way to justify the use of military around this issue.

ZANUPF claims that the church service was not the right place to protest yet we know that Hunzvi and his people protested before the former Chief Justice and the former President, yet Mugabe in his ruthless ways did not send the army to abduct them.

As much as we are concerned by the violation of the rights of those who were protesting, we are equally concerned with the abuse of our security forces by the elites.

We have always complained about the use of the uniformed forces to settle political scores, in 2008 just like during Gukurahundi a whole army was deployed against unarmed civilians who were said to be supporters of the MDC.

A decade later the army was also at the centre of settling ZANUPF factional battles albeit with no criticism because of the result everyone wanted, the ridding of Mugabe and the former first lady from hell.

Criticism was also minimal when the same style used in Bulawayo was used on Chombo and his henchmen; the temptation has always been to say the Chipangas are criminals who deserved it.

This pattern is however not ending in fact it is being compounded and magnified by the new President’s rhetoric, here is a man who speaks differently but acts quite the same as Mugabe.

In the midst of shrills around giving the lacoste frontman a chance, we have always expressed our reservations and suspicion around the President’s velvet glove and iron fist approach.

In an article summarising political events of 2017, President Biti warned that the new challenge the democratic contingent faced is how to deal with the state/party/military conflation.

The shift of power from the Shake-Shake Building to KG6 now called Tongogara Barracks.
This is a point he also made in his speech at the gathering of the Daily Maverick on 22 November 2017 in Sandton.

“You and I know from the studies of countries like Ghana, Nigeria, Central African Republic, Uganda, Equatorial Guinea, once tanks are on the street or a television program has been interrupted by men in uniform it is just a matter of time before it happens again.”

This is the challenge we face today but it is not a challenge that only the opposition in Zimbabwe must be concerned about but everyone else must be concerned.

The appointment of General Chiwenga as the Minister of Defence against the demands of the constitution expresses fear of self-replication of the coup.

We respectfully submit that micro managing the army is not a solution to military tanks rolling back into the streets someday.

The solution lays in the will to deal with roots of the coup, this includes solving the underlying problems and the mechanisms around the use of military infrastructure.

The authorities must deal with the political economy of the coup through embracing the principles and rules set out in section 211 to section 217 of the constitution. There is no substitute to this.

What happened in Bulawayo two days ago is counter progressive because it is a continuation of the older order which centred around military coercion of dissenting views.

What is needed is to transform the security sector, ensure they concentrate on their professional duties with a clear demarcation from civilian politics. Again there is no substitute to this.

A democratic election is also another ingredient away from the politics of a coup, again micro managing the military cannot substitute this process.

With specific attention to the Bulawayo protest, the bygones statements by President Mnangagwa have been exposed it is an old narrative pursued by President Mugabe the only difference is that of semantics, Bob preferred the “moment of madness” diction.

The effect of both is that the authorities want the issue to be swept under the carpet hence the demonstrations of the 31st of December 2017.

Our position has always been that an enquiry must be opened something which must be very easy to do considering that the current President claims he was not involved in the massacres.

The long and short of the story is that the underlying democratic issues must be addressed, if that happens there will be no need to use military force on civilians neither will there be a temptation by others to use a military coup as a means of redress.

Together Another Zimbabwe is Possible
PDP Communications