Legislating internal deployment of the military retrogressive

The release of the first draft constitution by the Parliament Select Committee (COPAC) has opened up a can of worms. Despite having been part of the outreach and drafting phases, ZANU PF continues to propose further amendments to the constitution, some of which are detrimental to the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms and could result in Zimbabwe regressing to the dictatorship which characterised the post 2009 period.

In its feedback to COPAC on the draft constitution, ZANU PF proposed that under Chapter 12 on Security Services, the committee should 'check on deployment during "Internal insurrection". Chapter 12: 8 (2) of the first draft constitution reads 'With the authority of the President, the Defence Forces may be deployed in Zimbabwe in defence of Zimbabwe against external aggression, but the President must inform the National Assembly within seven days of the deployment.' Moreover ZANU PF further proposes that COPAC removes the section written 'External aggression' and replace it with 'any aggression'.

What this effectively means is that, if the section is amended according to ZANU PF dictates, the President will have the power to deploy the military in situations where he feels that some citizens are using violence to take over political power. The Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary defines insurrection as 'a situation in which a large group of people try to take political control of their own country with violence.'

Judging from the lived realities of Zimbabweans since independence in 1980 and the role of the military, legislating the internal deployment of the military could turn the country into a fully fledged military state. In the past, the military has been used to propel and entrench ZANU PF power. The Gukurahundi saw the deployment of the Korean trained Fifth Brigade into Matebeleland and parts of Midlands provinces in the 1980's to curb what the President Mugabe led government termed 'dissidents'. Resultantly, an estimated 20,000 Zimbabweans lost their lives while thousands more were injured and displaced. Much as the government justified the deployment of the soldiers, most analysts have referred to the Gukurahundi as a deliberate attempt by Mugabe and his cronies to create a one party state.

Since then, ZANU PF has used the military to advance its personal agendas and to maintain its hold on power in the face of waning people power. More disturbing is the fact that army generals have constantly professed their undying support for the moribund political party and its octogenarian leader. Included among them is Major-General Martin Chedondo who recently said,

"As soldiers, we will never be apologetic for supporting Zanu-PF because it is the only political party that has the national interests at heart. "


It is equally a known fact that ZANU PF has, over the years developed increased mistrust and detest of its opponents, accusing them of attempting to unseat President Mugabe. In 2007, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters were arrested and incarcerated for more than six months under terrorism and insurgency charges only to be released due to lack of evidence. The MDC supporters were accused of masterminding a series of alleged bombings of railway lines and police stations. Again, in 2008, Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) Director, Jestina Mukoko and pro-democracy advocates were abducted and incarcerated for more than 3 months on banditry and terrorism charges. The state alleged that they were training MDC supporters to unseat a 'democratically elected government'.

The examples above clearly show how ZANU PF has consistently accused pro- democracy advocates of using violence in an attempt to unseat him and if this section is included in the constitution chances are it will be used to justify the use of state sanctioned violence against perceived opponents of the Mugabe regime. This will undoubtedly negatively impact on the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms by citizens such as the freedoms of expression and association.

The constitution is the supreme law of the land and should be used to protect the rights of citizens as opposed to suppressing them. The suggestions by ZANU PF are clearly aimed at limiting the operations of citizens and ensuring the continued rule of the political party.

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