Army barracks must be rid of two-headed snakes

OPINION – Normally found around river banks, I remember the greenish twin-headed snake as generally harmless though it was among the scariest species of the reptile family.

We knew it as sukukuviri. Though as harmless as the sungahuni, another type that would perfectly blend with dry wood, we were never convinced as young boys, that indeed, these were non-aggressive snakes. Whenever we saw one, we would run for dear life; faster than many competitors to have graced the Olympics. Not knowing which direction the two-headed snake was moving in or going to strike, instilled immense fear in every child.
 
I’ve been reminded of this old experience by some weird army officers who, today, wear an army cap at the same time carry a political microphone.  Like the twin-headed snake, they are instilling a lot of fear in innocent citizens who wonder which direction they are moving in or when they might strike. When Morgan Tsvangirai bemoans usurpation of civilian authority by the military, this is what he means.
 
In 1998, Comrade Musa, probably the most prominent and fearless freedom fighter around Zaka/Bikita at the height of the liberation war, passed on. The saddest part about his death was that he died a neglected fighter, almost a pauper. During his last days of long suffering and illness, Makuwerere Bwititi of The Chronicle then, brought the gallant fighter’s plight into the public domain through a moving news article. It was then that a military helicopter was dispatched to pick him up and take him to hospital in a clearly face-saving episode. But this was too little too late. Musa did not live for many more days thereafter.
 
At his funeral, Brigadier Mashingaidze, then commander of 3 Brigade in Masvingo, chided politicians for ignoring this illustrious fighter. He did not mince his words. In attendance, was Zimbabwe’s “legendary” vice president, the late Simon Muzenda who was angered by Mashingaidze’s outburst. Simon Muzenda warned Mashingaidze in front of mourners that he was now treading on dangerous ground because, as a serving soldier, it was not permissible to drabble in politics. He challenged him to leave the army and join politics if he wished. We don’t know what eventually happened to Mashingaidze other than that he was immediately relieved of his duties as commander of the Masvingo-based brigade following this incident.
 
Brigadier-General Douglas Nyikayaramaba’s recent utterances regarding presidential tenure and timing of next elections were most unfortunate, totally uncalled for and terribly unprofessional. Why nobody within the rank and file of ZANU PF has seen it fit to reprimand this serviceman or ask him to surrender his uniform, vacate the barracks and join politics, remains a mystery. Was it only in 1998 when soldiers were not allowed to drabble in politics? Or are they only allowed to do so if their views are not at variance with those of ZANU PF?
 
Public admission by Brig-Gen Nyikayaramba that former ZANLA and ZIPRA combatants who later joined the army are there to serve the party and not the nation was ill-conceived, badly timed and grossly preposterous. Looking at the composition of our uniformed forces after independence, we have three distinct taxonomies; ex-combatants, ex-Rhodesians then the non-aligned professionals who joined purely on passion and merit. Using Nyikayaramba’s logic, which master should the other two groups serve? Must they turn against those who think they are in the unformed forces ostensibly to protect ZANU PF interests?
 
Josiah Tungamirai, a gentleman by any measure and probably Zimbabwe’s most disciplined and principled senior commander, voluntarily resigned from the Air Force in May 1992 and joined full-time politics a few months later. In Botswana, Ian Khama left Mogoditshane barracks to become vice president before landing the presidency. Nyikayaramba and anybody else who thinks that their time may have come, must do the right thing by submitting their General Application (GA) and leave the uniformed forces before causing further collateral damage. This is not without precedence considering that Henry Muchena did the same recently. Army barracks must never be convenient shelter for twin-headed snakes!
 
In conclusion, it was unbelievable but somehow encouraging hearing the Police Commissioner-General saying “Those who wish to live by the sword must be prepared to die by the sword” We hope he understands the gravity and connotation of this axiom.
 
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