Those who enter power by the gun, will exit by the gun

As the old adage goes, 'history repeats itself', and so it is with the current political situation being witnessed in Zimbabwe, as the military has once again been instrumental in the installation - and removal - of the leader of the ruling ZANU PF party.

Robert Mugabe

However, as the same adage also continues…’but, we never learn from it’, it is quiet clear that this is not, by any stretch of the imagination, the last time this happens within this party – and any leadership that allows itself to be installed by the military will inevitably, sooner or later, be removed by the same

It is very important to note that the outgoing president of both ZANU PF and the country, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, was never chosen to lead the party by any elective congress, contrary to the organisation’s own norms.

During the liberation struggle, after the party was formed as a splinter from ZAPU, it organised an elective congress in the then Gwelo (Gweru) that ushered in the leadership of Ndabaningi Sithole as president, Herbert Chitepo as chairman, and Mugabe as secretary general.

Nevertheless, when Sithole was incarcerated – due to his role in the struggle – he allegedly rejected the armed struggle as a means to achieve independence for the Black majority, in a deal with the Smith regime to gain his freedom.

This, understandably, did not go down too well with the rest of his colleagues, more so, the ZANLA military wing of the party.

After securing his freedom, he was, expectedly, met by a rebellion, and was ousted as the party leader – having been rejected by the military wing, as they no longer considered him as their commander-in-chief.

Furthermore, after the death of Chitepo, the next in line to be leader of the party was the secretary general Mugabe.

Although, he was well within his rights to assume leadership of the party, only on an acting capacity till an elective congress was held, the military decided that he becomes the substantive leader of ZANU and commander-in-chief of ZANLA forces.

As such, Mugabe became leader at the behest of the military, and was never elected by the party.

Although, his party was ‘democratically’ elected into power at independence in 1980 – albeit, there being huge unanswered questions surrounding that process – Mugabe’s leadership of his party, and therefore, by extension, the country, had been through the barrel of the gun.

Similarly, his long ruinous grip on power was largely guaranteed by the support he received from the military – as he had all but lost the majority of the nation’s approval.

The military made it clear – when it was imminent Mugabe would lose elections after the formation of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) – that it would never salute anyone without liberation war credentials, in stark reference to the opposition leader Morgan Richard Tsvangirai.

Who can ever forget the role the military played when Mugabe lost the 2008 presidential elections to Tsvangirai?

It can be safely said that, had it not been for the military that refused to accept those results, and their role in the subsequent mass brutalization of the populace – leading to Tsvangirai withdrawing from the election run-off – Mugabe would have been history that year.

Again, the barrel of the gun had saved his skin.

Fast forward to November 2017, the very same military is the one that intervened in both party and government affairs, and pushed for the resignation of the very same man they had put into office.

Despite, last minute attempts by Mugabe to desuade the military from meddling in political affairs – emphasising that politics came before the gun – he was 40 years too late, as he should have said that when they were putting him in power during the liberation struggle, and the subsequent years.

It became obvious that those who enter power by the gun, will exit power by that very same gun.

However, this grave fact appears to have been lost on the man the military favoured to take over from Mugabe – Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa – as he gladly succeeded the aged leader.

It is not debatable that Mnangagwa was the military’s preferred man, as the factional fighting in ZANU PF had already claimed the head of former vice president Joice Teurai Ropa Mujuru, and her colleagues – who were expelled from both party and government for allegedly plotting to unseat Mugabe – yet, the military took no action.

However, when a similar fate visited Mnangagwa, their reaction was completely different, as they immediately sprang into action – leading to the resignation of Mugabe, and the expulsion of his wife and her colleagues from the party by its central committee – paving the way for Mnangagwa to assume the presidency of both.

Whether this whole process was constitutional or not, I do not know – as we leave that to the Alex Magaisa’s of this world – but, what can not be questioned is the brazen involvement of the military in the change of both ZANU PF and Zimbabwe leadership.

As such, just as with Mugabe, Mnangagwa can be said to have come to power through the barrel of the gun.

I can then honestly say, this is the beginning of another military-backed leadership cycle akin to what we witnessed under Mugabe – with all the ingredients the nation endured in the past 37 years, such as Gukurahundi, and the 2008 election brutality, as well as the repression of free dissenting expression.

Nonetheless, the nation of Zimbabwe will survive, as it did under Mugabe, but how will Mnangagwa’s reign end?

History does not paint a very colourful picture!

All that can be said it that, there is no profit in conjecture, but it is time that our politicians and peoples learnt a lesson from this.

But, then again, we never learn from history.

As much as most people may ullulate that there is a new dispensation in Zimbabwe, and that we all now have a fresh hope, there is a dark cloud hanging over the country – and it is not a rain cloud.

As we head towards the 2018 harmonised elections, let us all be very wary of the folly of blindly following a leadership that might seem progressive and attractive, and yet will not take kindly to being rejected a few years down the line – and will not hesitate to resort to pure military might.

Let us not forget that when Mugabe came on the scene in 1980, he was the blue-eyed boy, with all the country and world’s hopes pinned on him.

He even received an honorary knighthood from the very colonial British government that he had been fighting – in addition to so many other accolades from various global institutions for his exceptional leadership…even being awarded these in the midst of conducting a genocide in Matabeleland and Midlands.

White people who – during the liberation struggle – had been afraid of his ‘communist’, ‘racist’ and ‘heretic’ impending government, suddenly became relaxed, as they saw a ‘real gentleman’ in him.

The economy was on an upward trajectory, and there was generally no cause for alarm – who would not want such an exceptional leader?

However, when his leadership began to sour, and was no longer the people’s darling, he did not hesitate to remind them who really put him into power – the military.

This is what the people of Zimbabwe should never forget when going to the polls next year.

Our economic prosperity is pivotal to any electoral decisions we make, but lest we forget the nature of the person we choose.

Let us now finally divorce ourselves from a militarised leadership, which will not hesitate to brutalise us should we one day decide to chose someone else.

We need our choices to be balanced between the need for economic prosperity, and guaranteed democracy and respect for human rights.

Signs are already telling what type of a government we can expect from Mnangagwa.

The military helped him enter office – as it did with Mugabe – and will help keep him in office, as long as they still want him.

During his inaugural speech, he mainly focussed on economic development, but never a word on measures to be taken on the human rights and democratic front.

His silence on these issues was so loud.

How the military is going about ‘dealing’ with those allegedly involved in crooked and corrupt acts, such as former finance minister Ignatius Chombo, and ZANU PF youth leader Kudzi Chipanga – in their bid to ‘restore legacy’ – says a lot on what we should expect all of us to be treated in the not too distant future – should we decide to reject their preferred man.

Please Zimbabwe, let us never make the same mistakes of 1980 when we chose Mugabe, placing in him unfounded hope, without carefully considering his background.

And to the youth: you suffered tremendously due to Mugabe’s economic mismanagement and brutality – all because of the wrong choices of your parents in 1980 – but, this is the opportunity not to repeat their mistakes.

The youth can break this cycle of military-backed regimes, and elect a truly civilian government that will ensure economic success, and the respect of human dignity and rights.

Zimbabwe has indeed entered a new dispensation, an opportunity to correct our past misjudgements, and finally learn from our history – for if we make another mistake, we will have to endure another couple of decades of poverty and brutality.

° Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. He is available should you invite him to speak at any gathering or event. Please call/WhatsApp: +263782283975, or email: [email protected] Please also ‘Like’ the ZimJustice page on Facebook.

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