Army general, Nyikayaramba vows not to salute Tsvangirai

mogisaHARARE - Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (pictured) has said the grim political threats by army generals that they will never salute anyone without liberation war credentials reinforces his oft-repeated call for security sector reforms and the need to vaccinate State organs from acting like political entities.

Zimbabwe hangs in political limbo after members of President Mugabe’s security Cabinet, the Joint Operations Command, threatened this week to block the political transition if the incumbent veteran President loses the forthcoming presidential poll.

The Commander of 3 Brigade, General Douglas Nyikayaramba told the financial weekly, the Zimbabwe Independent in remarks published in a front-page splash of yesterday’s edition that he will never salute Tsvangirai. He is just the latest General to announce to the world that they would not accept, let alone support or salute, anyone without liberation war credentials.

This statement has been repeated on the eve of every national election since 2002. Tsvangirai said yesterday at the launch of a Panel of Elders — a distinguished panel of Zimbabwean leaders hoping to use their collective influence to bring political violence to center stage — that the army generals’ routine election time statement was tantamount to intimidation.

Brig Gen Nyikayaramba said the Generals refuse to countenance the prospect of Zimbabwe being ruled by a political party other than Zanu PF the deliverer of Zimbabwean independence. Drawing from their experience of fighting in the country’s liberation war, some senior army officers see themselves as the guardians of Zimbabwean independence. Nyikayaramba insisted elections must happen this year to end the power-sharing government that has been wrecked by internal wrangling and sharp disagreements on policy. Tsvangirai, far from facing down the military commanders, said the threats reinforce his call for security sector reforms. Tsvangirai has appealed to regional leaders to persuade Mugabe to allow for wide democratic security sector reforms before elections, but political analysts believe he will only concede ground if there is threat of regional isolation.

The matter has been set down for discussion at the Heads of State and Government meeting on the sidelines of the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Council and Summit in South Africa on 12th June.

“Statements by service chiefs that they will not respect the expression of the peoples will, as well as statements in the press today in which a senior army officer is trying to determine the date of the election, only serve to confirm the uniqueness of our situation and the importance of vaccinating State organs from acting like political entities,” Tsvangirai said at the launch of the Panel of Elders, headed by Prof Gordon Chavunduka, at a local hotel yesterday.

“Unnecessary election talk leads to dysfunctionality and polarity in the country. It polarizes Cabinet, Parliament and the security sector and leads to unilateral actions and selective application of the law.”

The Generals threat to never allow President Mugabe to cede executive powers to Tsvangirai was an ominous sign. The MDC leader alleged the generals were imposing a “war psychosis” on the country.

“Our current situation is being compounded by the war psychosis – the constant reference to Chimurenga and the war language associated with it,” Tsvangirai said. “It puts the country into an unnecessary war mode because any war environment necessitates the suspension of the Constitution and the undermining of the civilian authority. The

civilian authority becomes substituted by partisan organs of the State and the whole country is thrown into fear and insecurity. We cannot have peace unless all these issues have been dealt with.”

The decorated security chiefs are all veterans of the guerrilla war against supremacist Ian Smith’s brutal white rule in the 1970s that brought Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980.

Many see their open support for President Mugabe as a formidable obstacle to Tsvangirai’s bid for the Zimbabwean presidency. The MDC has been unequivocal in reassuring security forces that they have nothing to fear from a change of government if they remain “professional”.

In recent days, Defence Forces commanders pointedly Brig Gen Nyikaramba and police chief Augustine Chihuri have issued tough statements ahead of next year’s crunch poll backing Mugabe and denouncing Tsvangirai and his party as “puppets and running dogs” of Western countries and clearly stated that they will not accept the MDC leaders victory.

Political analysts say the political transition did not require the security officials’ acquiescence if the people have elected a leader of their choice even though he could not have liberation war credentials.

“The threat is there but that threat is unlawful, that threat is unconstitutional, that threat is a violation of the GPA, that threat

is a violation of the SADC Treaty, it is a violation of the AU Constitutive Charter, it is a violation of the United Nations Charter,

it is a violation of the Unilateral Declaration for Human Rights, it is a violation of all norms of civilized governance,” political

analyst Pedzisai Ruhanya said. “Nyikayaramba must appreciate the consequences of such violations. He will be a war criminal.”

A desperate MDC has tried to buy off the Generals without success. The MDC in 2009 requested the US government to provide a ‘Trust Fund’ to sweeten retirement packages for the army generals to ease them out of office. The US refused to fund that.

The extraordinary plea was allegedly made by MDC deputy treasurer-general Elton Mangoma in an October 29, 2009 meeting with political and economic affairs chief at the US embassy Katherine Dhanani, according to a memo drawn up by American officials which was obtained by the secrets-spilling WikiLeaks website.

“According to Elton Mangoma, (then) MDC-T minister of Economic Development and member of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s inner circle, the MDC would like the U.S. to contribute to a ‘trust fund’ to buy off securocrats and move them into retirement,” says the US cable.

The cable further said Mangoma, one of Tsvangirai’s closest advisors and one of the MDC-T negotiators of the Global Political Agreement (GPA), reiterated Tsvangirai’s views that a primary obstacle to political progress and reform was the service chiefs.

“Unlike many Zanu-PF insiders who had stolen and invested wisely, these individuals had not become wealthy,” the US cable wired to Washington says. “They feared economic pressures, as well as prosecution for their misdeeds, should political change result in their being forced from office. Therefore, they were resisting GPA progress that could

ultimately result in fair elections. Mangoma asked for consideration of U.S. contribution to a trust fund that could be used to negotiate the service chiefs’ retirement. He said he planned to approach the UK and Germany with the same request.”

The US cable said Washington believed the service chiefs could not defy Mugabe if he personally wanted to implement terms of the power-sharing pact that also calls for security sector reforms.

“While no doubt there are hardliners, including the service chiefs close to Mugabe who are pressuring him not to further implement the GPA, we continue to believe he could make concessions should he choose to do so,” says the US cable.

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