By Lance Muteyo
I was born after Zimbabwe’s Independence in 1980 after a violent liberation struggle.
I did not see the army in action in recent weeks. I just woke up seeing army tankers in town. Most international media organisations concluded that it was a coup against President Mugabe. We received more news of celebrations from the West than from Zimbabwe or any other African country . I sensed Western imperialism. It was strange! Even Italian media houses that normally don’t speak about Zimbabwe had “Zimbabwean coup” as a headline.
The army generals had taken over. They said they wanted to clean criminals who were around Mugabe. Mugabe without doubt had ruled Zimbabwe with an iron fist for the last 37 years. People’s voices were silenced, there was no freedom of conscience, assembly and speech for many years. This news came with joy for people. It was freedom day! Mugabe and his wife Grace had been firing many ZANU PF members (Their political party) since 2014. Recently they had fired Mugabe’s deputy and Vice President Emerson Mnangagwa in order to elevate Grace into the Vice Presidency. This became the major cry of the Army Generals which through the War Veterans led the biggest anti-Mugabe march in history. Everyone was happy to see Mugabe go, he had created a monarchy. The march was a jamboree.
I was happy that for the first time Zimbabweans exercised their freedom and democratic rights. But my question is; did the army and war veterans do this for the people or for their own power? They said they did it to clean the mess around Mugabe! Who created this mess in the first place? It was the army generals who allowed Mugabe to come to power in 2008 and 2013. It was the army and war veterans that spearheaded the violence after March 2008. Brutal killings in the farms under the Land Reform program was spearheaded by the War Veterans and militias in the 2000s. Murder and abductions of many MDC (Opposition Party) activists happened under the watchful eye of our army. It was the army that created the mess. They are simply cleaning their own mess! The army has been a pillar that Mugabe rested on in the last 37 years. The same war veterans who are championing for a new Zimbabwe are the same people who terrorised opposition activists in the name of territorial integrity and sovereignty. People loved the idea of Mugabe sinking but underlying his sinking is a big shark of power hungry opportunists rising up. In style the army cleaned up its own mess.
The whole drama is about jostling for positions within ZANU PF. There is a huge confusion in Zimbabwean politics of thinking that ZANU PF is Government and Government is ZANU PF. Mugabe and his wife fired many people from the Party and Government and today the new cadres are firing Mugabe loyalists. The wheel is been reinvented. More disturbing is the cleaning process of the army which has detained and arrested some people. The duty of the army is of safeguarding the national constitution and territorial integrity of a country. Prosecution remains the duty of Police and courts. This is a strong constitutional challenge which if not properly handled may be a future challenge.
It is important to realise that the army should not influence leadership. Yes, today ZANU PF has made the persecuted Mnangagwa to be President. We celebrated the going of the old man and the coming of fresh blood. However as we move the duty of choosing leaders remains the constitutional duty of the electorate. This euphoria and excitement shouldn’t disillusion people into settling for unconstitutional means of choosing future leaders. In a modern, democratic society it is the voice of the masses that must speak through elections. This situation has become a fertile ground for opportunists and fly by night politicians who want to get a piece of the cake. It is also important to remember that hundreds of ZANU PF politicians who have stolen Zimbabwean’s prosperous economy are dying to dive into this new political dispensation. We need new voices, new young voices. Most of what is happening is reactive politics from friends turned enemies. We all joined hands to denounce Mugabe regardless of political affiliations but as we move I don’t hear opposition cadres been tipped for future leadership.
I just believe the army did a good job in peacefully neutralising a hot situation without loss of blood. Let the rest of Africa learn from this. They guarded our constitution. As we go into 2018 lections with Mnanganwa as the President it’s important for the President to ensure that the Zimbabwe Election Commission creates a good playing field for the elections to be free, credible and fair. I believe the President can do that and is committed to reverse the damage done by Mugabe and his family.
Eventually, as Zimbabwe is rising we want to see a country that looks after its own citizens. A country that respects human rights. A country that is not at the mercy of the West or East but a country which can stand on its own without fear or hate. Today Africa stills battles with neo colonialism and imperialism and unless we don’t take care of our own destiny we as peace loving Zimbabweans won’t go anyway . A lot needs to be done in Zimbabwe and I believe God has raised the Joshua to provide servant leadership which will take us into Canaan. Our President reminds me much of the Biblical Saul who turned into Paul.
Zimbabwe will rise again!
Lance Muteyo is the Coordinator of Pan African Peace Network and the Trees of Peace Africa. He trains communities in conflict transformation across Africa, Europe and the US. He lives in Harare Zimbabwe with his family.