The mantra that ZANU-PF and the military will not accept Prime Minister (PM) Morgan Tsvangirai as President has been repeated again, this time by a senior ZANU-PF politician, Patrick Chinamasa a week before the crucial Second All-Stakeholders’ Conference on the draft constitution.
Chinamasa, who is also Justice and Legal Affairs Minister, told the BBC last week that ZANU-PF would not accept a “foreign-sponsored” victory for PM Tsvangirai and neither would the military because the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) leader had allegedly promised to reverse the gains of independence.
He hinted that the military would stage a coup if the premier wins the polls, which President Robert Mugabe wants held next March to end the four-year-old inclusive government between his party and the two MDC formations.
Previously, security sector establishments have issued similar statements saying they will not salute PM Tsvangirai if he wins presidential elections since he has no liberation war credentials.
As expected, the statements were met with outrage from MDC officials as well as civil society organisations. But that was before the MDC formations had joined their erstwhile enemies in government through the Global Political Agreement (GPA) necessitated by the disputed 2008 elections.
Although the inclusive government has had its fair share of problems during its lifespan, recent events appeared to suggest a different picture. The political foes had agreed to take the Constitution Parliamentary Select Committee draft without ZANU-PF amendments to next week’s conference; President Mugabe has been preaching tolerance; the MDC formations have been pushing for a successful all stakeholders indaba and subsequently, peaceful referendum and elections.
For a moment, this appeared feasible. That is until last week’s statement by the Justice Minister in the inclusive government.
So, what should be read from Chinamasa’s statements?
His deputy in the inclusive government, Obert Gutu (MDC-T) has been one of those suggesting that the four-year old partnership has largely been a success, barring some hitches here and there.
This week, Gutu dismissed Chinamasa’s threats as hollow, coming from someone who is prone to losing in elections.
“Those are shrill sounds from a desperate and serial electoral loser. Zimbabweans should not lose sleep over the hallucinations of a politician who is bidding farewell to the game of politics,” said Gutu this week.
“There will not be any coup in Zimbabwe.
“The era of coups is over,” he added, suggesting that those in ZANU-PF who have lost in elections should gracefully leave politics instead of threatening people with a coup.
Says Gutu; “Violence is part of ZANU-PF’s DNA; of course. Be that as it may, the people of Zimbabwe are smart enough to know that these are the last kicks of a dying horse. Surely, there is absolutely no need for any sane and right-thinking person to panic.”
But is the MDC-T senator failing to read into a grave situation or he is just putting up a brave face?
Qhubani Moyo of Welshman Ncube’s MDC thinks that when a Minister of Justice in a highly volatile country which is trying to recover from deep political wounds; a country whose history is littered with the use of violence as a tool for political organisation, comes out in international media spurring statements that he and his party are indirectly planning a coup in the event that his party loses elections, he is a candidate for criminal prosecution. “His statements to me cause alarm and despondency and are a potential source of national instability. This is made worse by the fact that a civilian minister is now going all the way to drag the military into his plot, I am sure this is in serious breach of the Defence Act.
“If we are a country that respects its laws I believe that Chinamasa should be arrested for such dangerous statements . . .,” says Moyo in a post on the social networking forum, Facebook.
Dewa Mavhinga of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute says there is need for concern since Chinamasa is a senior ZANU-PF politician and a party negotiator in the GPA.
“The threats expose the current constitution-making process and reforms carried out under the inclusive government as only skin-deep — not enough to deal with Zimbabwe’s fundamental problem of extremely politicised and highly partisan State institutions, particularly the security sector leadership that acts as if ZANU-PF has some divine right to rule,” says Mavhinga.
He says Chinamasa’s threats were a timely reminder and caution not to put too much hope in the capacity of a new constitution to be the magic wand that sweeps away all obstacles and creates a political environment conducive to the holding of free and fair elections.
The critical questions of the day that Zimbabwe’s political leaders and the Southern African Develop-ment Community regional leaders must urgently address are not about a new constitution only, but critically, about how to completely separate the military from civilian and electoral affairs in a way that can prevent the real risk of an overt or covert military coup.
“While the military may find it difficult to actually carry out a military coup, it appears the intended immediate goal of these reckless political threats, is to strike fear in the hearts of opposition politicians and the electorate, thereby improperly influencing elections by tilting the political landscape in ZANU-PF’s favour,” says Mavhinga.