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‘Respect the Constitution, desist from being partisan’ – Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition warns defense forces

Zimbabwe National Army Commander, Lieutenant General, Anselem Nhamo Sanyatwe.

By Chantay Ruswa

The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition has raised concerns over the partisan stance of the country’s defense forces’ and their loyalty to the ruling party, Zanu PF.

In response to the statements made by the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) Commander, Lieutenant General Anselem Nhamo Sanyatwe, the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition says the defense forces need to adhere to their constitutional mandate and refrain from partisanship.

General Sanyatwe, addressing a Zanu PF rally in Nyanga North Constituency where his wife serves as a Member of Parliament, stated that the army will use ‘command voting’ to ensure Zanu PF’s continued stay in power. He also said that the ballot will not remove Zanu PF and it will continue ruling until donkey’s grow horns.

In a media statement, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition says the army commander’s utterances demonstrate a complete disregard for the Constitution, which directs the defense forces to serve national interests rather than partisan ones.

“Zimbabwe’s Constitution under Section 211 (3) directs the army to respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all citizens and be no-partisan in their conduct. The Coalition emphasizes that the Constitution of Zimbabwe is a sacrosanct document that should never be abused for selfish political gains. The Constitution guarantees fundamental rights, including the right to elect political leaders, and this constitutional provision should not be overturned by the army whose conduct is guided by the same document,” says Marvelous Khumalo Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Spokesperson.

According to Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, Zimbabwe’s constitution has been under threat due to numerous amendments by the ruling party, Zanu PF which has used its parliamentary majority to introduce draconian laws aimed at entrenching its political power and further closing democratic space in Zimbabwe. The militarization of key institutions and the determination to create a one-party state also present a significant obstacle to attaining an independent democratic state.

Civil Rights activist and political commentator, Owen Dhliwayo says, “The role of the army is to protect and defend the democratic integrity of the nation and the statement made by the Army Commander discredits the value system of Zimbabwe because it shows that the army has a side that they support. The statement aims to intimidate and coerce the audience, with the goal of helping the political party gain majority.”

Advocate Thabani Mpofu responded to Army Commander, General Sanyatwe’s utterance in a statement saying that the army officer was in violation of Sec 208 (2) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe as the member of the security service acted in a partisan manner.

Advocate Mpofu says, the utterances by the service chief prejudiced the lawful interests of a legitimate political cause – opposition to Zanu PF. Section 155 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe and the Electoral Act, (Chap 2:13), by threatening to rig elections in favour of Zanu PF against the opposition.

“I therefore write to demand, as I now do, that you unreservedly withdraw your above statements within seven (7) days to your receipt of this letter, failing which I shall take steps to ensure to ensure that appropriate remedies under law are put in motion,” read part of Advocate Mpofu’s statement.

Political analyst, Lazarus Sauti says Zimbabwe is a patrimonial state which rewards people for their loyalty to the ruling party and the involvement of the military into politics undermines democracy and democratic institutions.

“The reason why we are seeing violence in our elections and why the military is campaigning for the ruling party is because of the spoiled centeredness of our elections they want to be visible and to be heard so that they can be rewarded,” says Sauti.

The Crisis Coalition says it will harness regional solidarity in light of the continued shrinking democratic space in Zimbabwe.

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