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Constitutional Entrenchment of the Military in Politics: Zanu PF's Big Mistake

The constitutional reform process is currently stalled partly because Zanu PF has raised some 200 objections to the draft constitution despite being part of the Constitution Parliamentary Select Committee (COPAC) that is leading the drafting process. While the general frustration of constitutional and other reforms by Zanu PF is generally counter-productive, perhaps their biggest mistake yet is seeking to constitutionally entrench military participation in politics.

Zanu PF is advancing an argument that soldiers should be left free to support political parties of their choice and that the constitution must acknowledge this point. To that end Zanu PF has disagreed with the draft constititution clause 4.18 2 (d) which provides that members of security organs, public services and chiefs must not be office-bearers of any political party or organization. In other words, the former liberation movement wants members of security organs, public services and chiefs to be able, constitutionally, to publicly associate with a particular political party and even to be office-bearers.

In truth, Zanu PF simply wants the new constitution to recognise what has already been happening that some members of the army, public services and chiefs have been openly taking party in political activities and brazenly supporting it. But this is what is wrong with Zimbabwe's institutions today - their lack of independence and professionalism; their alignment to Zanu PF in a multi-party democracy environment. Getting to army to take part in politics is one big mistake, although Zanu PF does not see this now because of the presumption that security organs fully support Zanu PF and will always do so.

But we know that it is mainly the leadership of the security organs who have benefited from the loot and plunder approach to government that has characterized Zimbabwe in the last decade that associates with Zanu PF. In the last few weeks the police splashed over USD $7, 5 million on luxury cars for the police and the central intelligence chiefs. The money was not in the budget and finance minister Biti has no idea where it came from. However, thousands of professional soldiers and police officers who are not part of this gravy train wish to remain independent of party politics and to discharge their mandate without having to chant party slogans.

It appears Zanu PF has now turned fully to the military as a desperate measure to ensure its continued hold on power by force because it lacks new ideas or policies to market itself to Zimbabweans. But the military will not just come to the show to assist Zanu PF to continue in power, it will take over political power triggering political instability that could be a crisis snowball engulfing the entire SADC region. For this reason Zimbabweans, and SADC, too, must vehemently oppose Zanu PF's attempt to enshrine in the constitution the abomination of the army in politics.

Dewa Mavhinga, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Regional Coordinator

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