Generals saluted retired General Mujuru, not Tsvangirai

The rogue Generals have vowed never to salute the Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and they have always said their loyalty was only to Robert Mugabe and we can confirm that the hostile arrangement still stands.

During the Defence Forces ceremony in Harare on Tuesday, the veteran former opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was seen sitting next to retired General Solomon Mujuru and his wife the Vice President Joyce Mujuru. They all seemed to be in  jovial mood, and freely conferring to each other in smiles.

As a retired General, Solomon Tapfumaneyi Mujuru is the country’s most Senior military officer, and therefore, even in retirement, all Defence Forces Commanders are compelled by the provisions of the Defence Act to salute him.

The Generals did this, and the naive reaction of the media reporters at the scene have misintepreted it to make headlines that have misled the whole world about these brutal thugs who presided over the torture, murder and burning down of houses of innocent villagers accused of supporting the opposition.

In the over-drive hype, some respected political commentators gave comments saying that it marked the begining of the respect of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, which is not true, but mere controlled posturing by Robert Mugabe playing  his usual window-dressing gamesmanship for propaganda.

One such commentator is Professor John Makumbe who said: “It’s about time. This is a positive moment. It is a shame they have only done this six months after the inauguration of the inclusive government. But he (Tsvangirai) has respected them by showing up at the Heroes celebrations and the burial of Vice President Msika, and today at the Defence Forces Day and so they should reciprocate.”

Last week Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa said army generals are not obliged to salute Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai despite the power sharing agreement with President Robert Mugabe.

Mnangagwa, a strong ally of Robert Mugabe told parliament that the service chiefs were not legally obliged to salute any person outside their military structures.

He was responding to a question from an MP from Mr Tsvangirai’s party on why service chiefs had not attended the Prime Minister’s swearing in and whether they would salute him.

Mr Mnangagwa said Mugabe was being saluted by service chiefs and their subordinates because he was the commander in chief of the army.

"There are two positions: the legal and the civil position. At law, no officer will commit any offence for not saluting a person who is not in the military structure, but morally they should salute senior members of society," he said. Zimbabwe’s uncomfortable coalition has been rocked by power struggles from the day it was inaugurated.

What was interesting at Defence Forces Day though was the set up of Tsvangirai sitting next to retired General Solomon Mujuru and his wife, Vice President Joyce Mujuru. General Mujuru is well respected amongst rank and file in the Army and Airforce, but he has no influence in the Commnd structure packed with Robert Mugabe’s sidekicks.

In the bitter Zanu PF’s Mujuru versus Emmerson Mnangagwa factions, the former has been moving closer to the opposition in both Parliament and government while Mnangagwa outfit through its chief strategist Jonathan Moyo has been hostile to the MDC, plotting all the trumped-up charges nailing its MPs. Jonathan Moyo is even burning candles all night working harder to remove Lovemore Moyo as Speaker of Parliament.

Meanwhile, the MDC-T called for the de-politicisation of the defence forces, and appealed to uniformed forces to support and not undermine the coalition government, as the country commemorated Defence Forces Day. Since the formation of the inclusive government in February the MDC has made numerous statements accusing members of the police of applying the law selectively, and targeting MDC members. Only last week the MDC was accusing soldiers of tearing down posters publicising a star rally to be addressed by party President Morgan Tsvangirai in Mutare.

Ironically, while speaking at the Tuesday ceremony, Mugabe defended the security forces, despite the widespread reports by human rights groups and the MDC itself of violations committed by security forces. He rejected the accusations that the army had committed abuses during last year’s elections, or even under the present coalition government.

The MDC, a partner in the coalition government, insists politically motivated violence and victimisation is still continuing, especially in the rural areas, and gave examples of places like Vhumbunu Primary School in Mutasa Central, where soldiers are allegedly harassing and torturing innocent villagers.

The MDC called ‘upon all uniformed forces of Zimbabwe to embrace the letter and spirit of the Global Political Agreement,’ and said, ‘it is vital for our uniformed forces to support, rather than undermine, the structure and hierarchy of the Inclusive government.’

Former freedom fighter Wilfred Mhanda says the MDC seems to be at pains to curry favours with the defence forces, when they know they don’t have their respect. “As far as we know, our defence forces for the past ten years have behaved in a very partisan manner. They have spearheaded bloody campaigns against the people and have spearheaded campaigns in Chiadzwa (diamond area) and killed hundreds of people.”

The outspoken commentator said the uniformed forces have to turn over a new leaf to prove that they are no longer Mugabe’s instruments. He said: “Right now they are not a national defence force, but serving the interest of Robert Mugabe and his ZANU PF. So I think the MDC has to be alive to that.”

Mhanda believes the MDC is a mere ‘junior partner’ in the inclusive government, and therefore unable to call the shots where the armed forces are concerned.