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The Generals statement, its meaning and implications – Lloyd Msipa

By Lloyd Msipa

Yesterday, the Generals held a press conference at KGIV in Harare. The message they delivered was essentially directed at only one man, President Robert Mugabe, nobody else. The Generals only recognise one man, their Commander in Chief President Robert Mugabe.

Lloyd Msipa
Lloyd Msipa

Let us forget about everyone else. The message was essentially that Robert Mugabe must put his house in order. That he must retrace his footsteps to the point where he allowed the party constitution to be violated without due process. He was essentially given a timeline.

He was told that he lost his way from 2015, beginning with the expulsion of former vice president Joyce Mujuru all the way to now, where he has now expelled former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa. That is the context in which the general’s statement must be understood. Here is why.

The Mgagao Declaration (Oct 1975)

The Mgagao declaration was written by military officers at the main ZANLA training camp in Tanzania at the height of the liberation struggle in 1975. It laid the foundation of two important historical events, the basis for the removal of Rev Ndabaningi Sithole as leader of ZANU and at the same time laid the foundation for the elevation of Robert Mugabe as the leader of ZANU at a special congress at Chimoio two years later in 1977. Of the crimes Sithole was accused of, the following stand out.

That “he had no interest in the revolution or people, only his personal interests. That he cherished an insatiable lust for power”. Essentially Robert Mugabe is being accused of exactly the same thing. That he has failed to uphold the founding principles of the liberation struggle.

That he has personalised the people’s project by empowering his wife at the expense of those who fought and sacrificed in the war of liberation. The General’s statement at KG1V amounted to a declaration that now lays the foundation for the removal of president Mugabe as leader of ZANU PF and the elevation of somebody else.

Where does power reside

Despite being a constitutional democracy, power has always resided in the barrel of the gun. What that means is that the guarantors of the revolution have always been war veterans and most constitute the national army.

In that respect, the Generals are saying to Robert Mugabe, we put you there and therefore we can remove you. Politics leads the gun in as long as you are respecting the principles of the liberation struggle (Chibvumirano) The nationalist paradigm has always been that politics is a prisoner of the gun. What the Generals are saying we will look after you (our Commander in Chief) with the gun as long as you are one of us. But should you sell out the gun will take corrective measures.

During the armed struggle, (nguva yehondo) they were sell-outs of African descent who would sell information to the coloniser. So, when one was caught for selling out, they would die a painful death.

In principle the Generals are saying the van guard party ZANU PF has been infiltrated by “counter-revolutionaries” and therefore the commander in chief, the president has essentially sold out the revolution. What is happening now is recognition of those principles by the Generals and a reminder to President Mugabe of the Mgagao declaration and the punishment meted to Rev Ndabaningi Sithole for selling out and the possible consequences for him.

G40 merely pawns

The Generals also recognise that Grace Mugabe, Professor Jonathan Moyo and the youth league draw their power from President Mugabe. So according to the Generals their commander in chief is been given room to correct this and failure to do so, will see them taking corrective measures as his foot soldiers and custodians of the security of the country.

The Generals recognise that the G40 are merely pawns in the bigger scheme of things. They have traced the source of the poison that inflicts the country and it leads all the way to the top.

They are saying the military as an institution “cuts across a wider spectrum of Government support functions” and therefore they are equally affected by the reckless purging and back biting within the ZANU PF party. They remind president Mugabe twice in the same statement, that our “revolutionary path is replete with conduct and rebellion by people who have attempted to destroy the revolution from within”. Effectively he has been put on notice.

Constitutionality of Generals statement

The Generals statement begins with a reference to the preamble of the Constitution. “Exalting and extolling the brave men and women who sacrificed their lives during the Chimurenga/Umvekela and national liberation struggles and honouring our forebears and compatriots who toiled for the progress of our country”- This sums up the agreement of the nationalist paradigm. (Chibvumirano).

The Generals have not breached any constitutional provision. They are merely pointing out to their commander in chief that it is him that has breached or violated ‘chibvumirano’ (the nationalist vow). He reminds the president that it is the army that has historically corrected democratic anomalies that occurred in the party of liberation. In other words, there is a more than one precedence to the action they have promised to take in our history.

It is entrenched in custom, Mgagao, removed Rev Ndabaningi Sithole and elevated Robert Mugabe, the formation of FROLIZI, the attempt to remove the late Herbert Chitepo from his position in a bogus Congress in 1973, The Nhari-Badza rebellion and the Vashandi 1 and 2 rebellion that led to the death of Nikita Mangena. All these were corrected by the armed forces as the party was in danger of being destroyed by counter revolutionaries. The current scenario is no different.


The Constitution of Zimbabwe is a by-product of a political process. Theoretically, it captures the values and aspirations of its citizenry. It is the supreme law of the land. However, when a political process is allowed to tamper with it, such that it now fails to mirror the aspirations of its citizens, the citizens become prisoners of that constitution.

Our history of liberation speaks of how the gallant sons and daughters of Zimbabwe defied a constitution that criminalised their fight for freedom and justice. But, based on moral conviction alone, they recognised that an unjust law is no law at all.

So, it naturally followed that they had to defy the Constitution of Rhodesia in order to usher in the Constitution of Zimbabwe. By extension, if the constitution of Zimbabwe ceases to mirror the aspirations of Zimbabwe, our legacy of the liberation struggle allows the armed forces to step in and take corrective measures.