STATEMENTS by army generals threatening violence ahead of 2018 elections betray the panic gripping the securocrats who fear former Vice-President Joice Mujuru could give President Robert Mugabe a torrid time, analysts have said.
Presidential Guard Commander, Brigadier General Anselem Sanyatwe allegedly told members of his unit in Harare that the military would be used to crush Mujuru’s People First (PF), an offshoot of Zanu PF.
Reports of Sanyatwe’s remarks came hard on the heels of a controversial statement by Zimbabwe National Army commander Phillip Valerio Sibanda, that the military was ready for war.
He said in the past the army had stopped an uprising by MDC-T. The army was accused of using violence to campaign for Mugabe ahead of a run-off election in 2008, where first-round winner Morgan Tsvangirai, was forced to withdraw after his supporters were killed.
Political analyst Alois Masepe said the comments by Sanyatwe showed that there was panic within the ruling elite and among securocrats as they did not know who was backing Mujuru.
“It’s not the whole army, but the security directorate which is making those remarks,” he said.
“The security directorate is part of the ruling elite in Zimbabwe politics and many other developing countries and they stand to lose a lot when there is a change of government.
“This is why it is not easy to change governments in developing countries. “It is the leadership of the army which is part and parcel of the ruling elite.
“They are threatened by Mujuru. In our case the Joint Operations Command is running the country like what they did in 2008 where they then initiated a runoff.”
Masepe added: “They are the same people and any opposition upset them.” He said it was likely that the ruling party’s pillars that include the military was split when Mujuru was fired.
“When Mujuru was fired a lot of ministers were fired too. There was a lot of suspicion among the securocrats and Mujuru’s damage is more far reaching than that of civilians like MDCs,” Masepe argued.
Meanwhile, Mujuru’s loyalists yesterday brushed aside threats by Senyatwe that the military will crush her movement ahead of the 2018 elections, vowing to do everything possible to stop him.
Former Presidential Affairs Minister, Didymus Mutasa said PF will not be intimidated and would use everything at its disposal to stop the likes of Sanyatwe from blocking Mujuru’s rise.
He said People First will report Sanyatwe to his superiors so that disciplinary action is taken against him, describing the controversial general as “disgraceful servant.”
“This is what we have been saying is stopping democracy in Zimbabwe,” Mutasa said in reference to Sanyatwe’s remarks. “Presidential Guards will be used during elections to cause violence.
“We will do everything in our power to stop him and ensure that disciplinary action is taken against him.”
“That is not what he is employed for (causing political violence). He is employed as a soldier and not like what he is trying to do. We shall take the matter to his seniors and Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.”
Mutasa queried why Senyatwe’s superiors had not responded to the alleged threats.
“We don’t know (if his seniors will take action), we can’t speak for them but why are they silent? They should tell what measures they are going to take on such wayward soldiers,” he said.
People First spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo said Mujuru and PF members would not be intimidated by the army.
“We will release a detailed response next (this) week but truly we cannot be intimidated by such remarks. More will be addressed in that response,” he said.
Mujuru’s release of a blueprint last month set the stage for bare-knuckle fight with Zanu PF.
Political analyst and chairperson of the Research and Advocacy Unit professor Lloyd Sachikonye said it was unfortunate that the army was meddling in politics.
“No the army must not do that,” Sachikonye said. “The army is expected to be a professional force. It is an important institution of the State and the constitution spells its functions clearly and one of the functions is not to delve in politics.”
MDC-T spokesperson, Obert Gutu also said it was unconstitutional for military officers to make partisan political statements.
“The threat by some army commander to use violent tactics against an opposition political outfit is not only in extreme bad taste but it is also grossly offensive and unconstitutional,” Gutu said.
Director of army’s public relations unit Lieutenant Colonel Alphios Makotore yesterday refused to comment over the phone demanding questions in writing.
Mujuru was fired from Zanu PF along with several other former Cabinet ministers and senior officials early this year following allegations of plotting to topple Mugabe from power.