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Sanyatwe’s chilling threats to democracy condemned

THE declaration by Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) commander Lieutenant-General Anselem Sanyatwe that the military will use ‘command voting’ in the next general election is a danger to democracy and requires a Sadc-facilitated all-stakeholder dialogue.




THE declaration by Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) commander Lieutenant-General Anselem Sanyatwe that the military will use ‘command voting’ in the next general election is a danger to democracy and requires a Sadc-facilitated all-stakeholder dialogue.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC), a coalition of civil society groups, said this shows the military factor in politics and its penchant to push for a one-party state while subverting the will of the people.

Sanyatwe made the declaration on 3 July while addressing a Zanu PF rally in Nyanga North constituency, where his wife is an MP. He further declared that Zanu PF will not be removed by the ballot and will continue ruling until donkeys “grow horns”.

CiZC has condemned Sanyatwe’s utterances as a clear violation of the principles of free and fair elections and a breach of the military’s neutrality in the political process. “General Sanyatwe’s sentiments underscore the need to address the military factor in Zimbabwe’s politics, thus our continued call for a Sadc-facilitated dialogue.

The continued involvement of the army in Zimbabwe’s politics leads to the subversion of the will of the people and the entrenchment of authoritarianism,” CiZC said in a statement.

“In light of the statement by Sanyatwe, the coalition will engage Parliament and independent institutions established to promote democracy in Zimbabwe as part of our advocacy efforts to protect the constitutions and promote constitutionalism in Zimbabwe.” CiZC added:

“The militarisation and determination to create a one-party state also presents a significant obstacle to the attainment of an independent and democratic state in Zimbabwe. The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition urges the country’s Defence Forces to adhere to their constitutional mandate and refrain from serving partisan interests. We are disturbed by the utterances made by Zimbabwe Army Commander Anselem Sanyatwe.”

CiZC said Sanyatwe’s remarks violate section 211 (3) of the national constitution which directs the army to respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all citizens and be non-partisan in conduct.

“His declaration that the army will use command voting to ensure Zanu PF’s continued stay in power is deeply concerning.,” CiZC said.

CiZC also said Sanyatwe’s remarks are likely to fuel corruption, as they put the army in a compromised position in speaking against looting of natural resources by politically connected people.

“The army should be obligated to serve national interests and in the current context, no one would expect the army to speak out against looting of national resources by political heavyweights and their Zimbabwe National Army commander Lieutenant-General Anselem Sanyatwe cronies,” it said.

The civil society grouping said Zimbabwe’s constitution has been under threat due to numerous amendments by the ruling Zanu PF which has used its parliamentary majority to introduce laws aimed at entrenching their political power and further closing the democratic space in Zimbabwe.

Another pressure group, the Job Sikhala-led National Democratic Working Group (NDWG), has also demanded that Sanyatwe resign, saying he is a threat to national peace.

“The National Democratic Working Group (NDWG) condemns statements made by Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) commander, Anselem Sanyatwe that only Zanu PF will lead this country even if they lose elections,” said NDWG in a statement. 

“His behaviour and statements are adverse to his constitutional responsibility. Sanyatwe is a threat to national peace and the democracy outlined in the constitution of Zimbabwe. We call for his immediate resignation from ZNA. The military must stay away from partisan politics!”

Constitutional lawyer Thabani Mpofu said Sanyatwe’s remarks are a violation of section 208 (2) of the national constitution and the Defence Act.

Mpofu, who is main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa’s legal adviser, says Sanyatwe’s remarks brazenly violated the country’s constitution, rule of law and undermined constitutionalism.

In particular, Sanyatwe’s pronouncements breached sections 208(2) and 55 of the constitution, parts of the Electoral Act and the Defence Act.

“I consider the above statements to be in violation of Section 208 (2) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe in that you as a member of a security service (the ZNA). (a) In so uttering such statements in a public gathering, acted in a partisan manner (b) Furthered the interests of a political party (Zanu PF),” said Mpofu in his letter to Sanyatwe.

“(c)Prejudiced the lawful interests of a legitimate political cause – opposition to Zanu PF, going so far as viewing your own people, who depend on your protection as enemies. Section 155 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe and the Electoral Act (Chapter 2:13), by threatening to rig elections in favour of Zanu PF against the opposition. “Sir, I therefore write to demand, as I now do, that you unreservedly withdraw your above statements within seven days of your receipt of this letter, failing which I shall take steps to ensure that appropriate remedies under the law are put in motion.”

However, presidential spokesperson George Charamba has defended Sanyatwe, saying there was no issue.

“Do not be fools! Armies run on orders which are issued at parades and some such military settings. I am unaware of any order which is issued in a village and before villagers. Do not make noise over an issue that is not there,” he said on his X handle @dhonzamusoro007.

“The General was in his home community and addressing his community-family. End of story. If you have been rattled by the General’s remarks, then you have a problem. Fix it. When he put on his real identity as a General and Commander to say the same, not even little cockroaches will squeak. You know it!”

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