After almost four decades of Zanu-Pf rule in Zimbabwe, the southern African nation is at the threshold of defining elections in many ways. Zimbabwe will know that the stakes are high. There’s no Zimbabwean I know who doesn’t seek the prosperity of this former bread basket of Southern Africa. On the eve of probably the most significant elections since independence, people relive and analyse the climax of rallies. Every party and ‘leader’ making a case to be the people’s choice.
While Zimbabweans contemplate voting and the possible outcomes, it is worth looking back. Not too far back. It is worth looking at recent history. I’m talking about the coup that wasn’t a coup. That is, ousting of Robert Mugabe. Upfront: the action by the army was extraordinary in the most extraordinary of circumstances.
Zimbabweans celebrated the end or Mugabe’s rule. “Did the end justify the means?” is a question I often get asked. I still don’t know how to answer that. While some continue to debate this, we can’t camp there. The past is the past. What we have is here, right now. The present is when new futures are created.
Sometimes it is in the present we realise how consequential some of our choices were.
And, then there are those rare moments. Moments like the ones Zimbabwe has in these elections. The times a nation is acutely aware that their choices will define posterity in profound ways.
One hopes that history — the distant and near past — has had a sobering effecting on Zimbabwe. That is, gave warning to politicians — corruption and a lack of compassion and empathy will no longer be tolerated. The expression of frustration and intolerance of corruption and other ills by ‘leaders’ was enabled by the action or involvement of the army. Zimbabweans felt freer to speak about what they weren’t happy about in relation to government. We can’t deny that the army’s involvement helped bring some relief.
The Big Question(s)
Besides the general retiring or resigning from the army and joining government, it has been difficult to ascertain the extent of the army’s involvement in government. Reports of some politicians saying the army would never accept the presidency of some candidates have featured periodically.
Did this imply that the army had a say or would have a say on who becomes president? Did it mean that it will support some or a candidate over others? Or were these alleged pronouncements just politicians politicking?
The question of the extent of the army’s involvement is an important one. There is no democracy when the army has a say on who should govern.
While there are many things to consider on who to vote for the question of the army must not be ignored. When Mugabe was ‘overthrown’ was the army acting on behalf of the people by primarily or as a secondary result. Was the army’s stepping in to settle an infighting that was affecting the country or were they strengthening the hand of someone they supported. The army shouldn’t be partial, right?
If the army’s involvement was a primarily the result of Zanu-Pf support, then another bigger question arises:
Could voting for Zanu-Pf legitimise the ‘involvement’ or interference of the army in the recent past? And, furthermore, could it justify this interference in the future?
Would love to know your thoughts.