By Moses Chamboko
WHEN a serving soldier goes astray, there are many different types of remedial actions that can be invoked. The most common of these punishments is what is known as Confinement Barracks (CB), usually for minor transgressions like absence without official leave (AWOL) or inappropriate dressing.
For more serious offenses, Detention Barracks (DB) or de-rank or a combination, can be applied. De-rank is the equivalent of demotion in the civilian world. When the offence is more serious than this, a court marshall is usually commissioned and this can recommend dismissal, prison sentence or both. It is the highest military court.
Why is this important? General Constantino Guvheya Chiwenga has crossed the line not only once, but on several occasions, without any punishment or reproach. To make matters worse, given his seniority in the army, he cannot be tried by any military jurisdiction. The appointing authority, being the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, President Robert Mugabe, is the only person who can call Chiwenga to order, but we know he will not. Constitutionally, parliament can also intervene but, practically, can it?
By using public media to threaten and abuse law-abiding and peace loving citizens, Chiwenga, instead of being defender of national security, has become a national security risk himself. By berating heroes of the liberation struggle whose only crime is that they are not as privileged as he is, Chiwenga has demonstrated that he is an opportunist and a coward who can easily desert his fellow comrades before the cock crows.
He does not seem to appreciate that the war ended almost 40 years ago and he has no authority over war veterans, moreso, over who they want to associate with in politics. Chiwenga’s ramblings show us how shallow he is. We have never heard such a confused and confusing account of the war of liberation, all done to hero worship a tyrant who has totally lost his way.
Can anyone tell what Chiwenga is rambling on about; whether he was making any sense in what he was trying to say? A combination of little education and access to power can be dangerous. For a whole army general to display such misguided anger in such an undignified way against defenceless civilian war veterans, threatening to put them where they belong, whatever he means by that, puts us all on alert. How far is this general prepared to go? Does he want to spark civil unrest so he can shoot anyone who disagrees with him?
Zimbabwe has a lot of unsung heroes who sacrificed everything to bring about independence. It would appear as if there is now a very fine line between Chiwenga and Kasukuwere when it comes to besmirching liberation heroes. A few days ago, Chiwenga was on headline news attacking comrades who made it possible for him to be where he is today.
The army commander thinks he is a super hero who fought a lone battle to liberate Zimbabwe. He speaks and behaves like his boss, President Mugabe who, in his wild fantasy, portrays the picture that he alone fought and won the liberation war.
What about Comrade Musa whose name was the epitome of the struggle in Bikita, Zaka and surrounding districts at the peak of the struggle? Didn’t he die a pauper? Where was Chiwenga when humble Musa was almost laid to rest on a reed mat (rupasa) had it not been for well-wishers including some decent and caring sons and daughters of the liberation struggle who came in to help? Makuwerere Bwititi, who was with The Chronicle then, flashed Musa’s plight in the national media when he was on his death bed then we saw a military helicopter flying to Bikita as an emergency ambulance in what was nothing but a face-saving episode by the vampires calling themselves generals.
Recent rantings by Chiwenga confirm that he is a dwarf in long robes who has no clue regarding the role of the army in a democratic dispensation. Given that he is said to have attained a PhD from some African university not very long ago, one wonders if he got his qualification the same way one Dr Amai got hers, in supersonic fashion. Isn’t critical thinking a basic product of university education? Chiwenga does not exhibit a modicum of those skills!
As Zimbabweans, we have had enough of political activists or thugs who masquerade as generals. Those who really fought in the struggle say that during the war, Chiwenga, then known as Dominic Chinenge, never commanded a single province or sector. The highest position he landed was that of deputy commissar, deputising comrade Mayor Urimbo. Calling himself the most senior surviving commander is a lie; even he knows that. Maybe he meant to say the most powerful surviving beneficiary.
We know our true heroes – Josiah Tongogara, Josiah Tungamirai, Rex Nhongo, Lookout Masuku, Nikita Mangena and many others who live a very simple and quiet life today such as Cdes Gwauya and Chipowera as well as those who died without recognition such as Dzinashe Machingura, Hamadziripi and others. Who is Chiwenga in this matrix of heroes?
The fact that Dominic Chinenge failed promotion tests way back in the 80s, shot himself in a cowardly failed suicide attempt then received accelerated and unprocedural promotion from the Commander-in-Chief, does not make him a special hero, that’s not heroism but cowardice! He is very lucky to be commander of the armed forces because there are many other deserving candidates who could be in that office, only if they were equally careless or foolish!
Almost every Zimbabwean family bears scars from the struggle. We know of neighbours who never came back. My own brother, Aaron (rest in peace Chimwaura) joined the struggle when he was a young man. He was lucky to come back, opted for demobilisation, re-integrated into society and died an ordinary but happy man in the village. His name will never be written anywhere. Didn’t he fight? Chiwenga must not besmirch those who are less privileged than him yet they are the ones who dodged the bullets and fought the fierce battles when he was at a safe distance.
Rex Nhongo was instrumental in the amalgamation of Rhodesian forces and freedom fighters into a professional and non-partisan army. Tungamirai was the first black and professional commander of the Air Force of Zimbabwe who learnt to fly a helicopter and could fly solo. He also attended university formally and acquired a proper degree. Both men acquitted themselves well, discharged their duties professionally, retired and joined politics. While in politics, they were never known for violence. In fact, Solomom Mujuru barred Jabulani Sibanda from entering and camping in Chikomba in 2008 telling him that he didn’t want violence in his constituency which would have set relatives and neighbours against each other. When will Chiwenga ever learn something from his predecessors, our genuine commanders?
Zimbabweans United for Democracy (ZUNDE) challenges Chiwenga and any other general who thinks and behaves like him to immediately step down as they have failed dismally to the extent of being a security risk. There are many professional soldiers who will step up and serve Zimbabwe better.
Moses Chamboko is the interim Secretary General of Zimbabweans United for Democracy (ZUNDE).