Reincarnation of the Painful Past: Disguised as Freedom

The Military Can Never Be Our Liberators!
Opinion23.11.2017Fungisai Sithole

Driving back home from a day’s work, as I reached Westgate roundabout, along Lomagundi Road, I found myself engulfed in a fleet of army tanks. They were moving at a very slow speed and all motorists were driven off the road to make way for the military tankers which were heading towards the city. Just the sight of the army tanks shook me; I wondered what this meant as I had not taken General Chiwenga’s comments on the intervention of the military in the ZANUPF succession seriously. For me, the army was synonymous to Mugabe and I never imagined that it could one day stand up against him and stage a coup. I feared for my life, I feared for my kids, I feared for my future. I panicked yet I am one person who takes long to respond to imminent danger. On this day, 14 November 2017, the feeling was different.

The army tanks drew memories from my childhood when I will still six years old. I do not remember most of childhood experiences but surprisingly I still have a photographic memory of the army artillery, army tanks and the soldiers. What I also remember most are the gruesome stories that my family constantly narrated on Gukurahundi. How our Uncle was taken away by Red Berets and never came back home, how our neighbour lost his limb through the wrath of the soldiers, how some of my cousins grew up fatherless because their father had been killed by the soldiers. I knew the word Gukurahundi at that tender age. I was in Grade 1 at that time, and I still remember how we were made to run for dear life every time we saw an army vehicle, and they were quite many of them at that time.  Army vehicles were known to have reckless drivers, they were known to bring trouble, they were known to kill, and they were known to torture. We were constantly reminded growing up of relatives and neighbours who had been killed, disappeared by these soldiers. So, when I saw them on the 14th November 2017, those memories flooded.  I struggled to understand how an oppressor can be a liberator. I became one of the pessimists of the whole military takeover. I even thought I was weird, as I failed to celebrate with many.

After the army entourage had gone by, I drove home still shaken and praying not to come across any of these evil looking vehicles.  I was wrong, another entourage went passed my home and I just froze with fear but on the other hand I had hope that if we survived the Gukurahundi, we will survive whatever this was. I prayed for the safety of my children and for peace as the Gukurahundi memories have stayed with me for all these years and would not want to relieve them.

I could not sleep on this day as social media messages kept coming in, with confirmations of a coup. Mugabe’s Blue roof residence had been surrounded by the army tanks, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation had been taken over and when I saw the military address on TV through Deputy Commander General Sibusiso Moyo, I saw Zimbabwe at war. I began to see a bleak future for myself and my children in Zimbabwe. The military announced that they had taken over and President Mugabe was safe. The voice of General Moyo, shook me, it was stern, serious and authoritative. I did not go to work. I advised my employer, who was due to visit Zimbabwe on 16 November not to come anymore as everything was pointing towards a military revolt. Further discussions with my employer were quite comforting as she continued to support me and my colleagues. My colleagues worldwide sent messages of support and I really felt I was not alone in this. I felt my colleagues genuinely cared for my safety and that of my colleagues. By the 18th of November 2017, the military had clearly failed in their plan. Civilians were roped in, an ‘independence’ march organised by War Veterans, opposition parties and other anti-Mugabe movements. I could not join the march as I felt the freedom to protest should be a right and not a favour to be accorded at the whim of the security forces. The soldiers were there, not to kill but to support and protect. For me this was a phony.  I was however, happy to see so many Zimbabweans happy and it showed me that a new Zimbabwe is possible. A Zimbabwe where people can be granted rights to protest not necessarily in support of the army but also even on things they differ on. It was also clear that this right was going to be short-lived. Once the army had achieved its goal, Zimbabwe will revert to a Zimbabwe we have always known. An unfree Zimbabwe; where voices of dissent can never be, where civilian protests will always be at the mercy of the security forces. 

Sad in all this, is that whilst we have always known the power of the military in the politics of the country, we now know that no one can rule Zimbabwe without the support of the military and without liberation credentials, we now know the extents they can go to in defense of their preferred candidate. This is an unsaid rule which speaks to the challenges awaiting the opposition as we prepare for 2018 elections. The military can never be our liberators! Rule of law, clear separation of powers, ‘freedoms to be’, freedom of the press and freedom to choose our governments are key pillars of our liberation.