EDITORIAL COMMENT: The army earned public trust, must maintain status

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A survey conducted by a Pan-African research organisation, Afrobarometer, has established that the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) is much trusted, second only to church leaders.

We aren’t sure where the military was ranked before the April/May study but this is a tremendous honour for them. Wherever they were prior to April, we are of the opinion that the top ranking was influenced by the popular intervention the military undertook on that unforgettable day of November 14, 2017.

On that day, the ZDF launched Operation Restore Legacy, which was meant to stem a degenerating situation in the Government and country caused by a coterie of then Zanu-PF members and ministers who had greatly compromised the then President, Mr Robert Mugabe.  His wife, Grace, was the key figure in the brazen usurpation of executive authority from an aged Mr Mugabe who had been rendered helpless to stamp his authority against his far much younger wife and her associates.

The operation was well received by the masses who marched in solidarity in their tens of thousands on November 18, 2017.

Elsewhere on the globe, operations like the November 14-21, 2017 one are frightening and tend to lead to deaths of many, but the one led by the ZDF was unique. The transition was orderly, bloodless and popular.

Demonstrators danced as military tanks moved in the streets of Harare and took selfies with men in military fatigues.  For the first time in many years, the foreign Press was able to report unhindered in Zimbabwe and is able to do like that up to now.

The military had helped liberate the masses, who had laboured under Mr Mugabe’s iron-fisted rule and economic decay with no hope for an immediate respite. Liberators always earn the respect and trust of those they liberate so when the ZDF officially announced the beginning of Operation Restore Legacy on November 14 and its end a week later, the people’s trust in them was built and cemented.

“In interviews just weeks ahead of elections in July, four in 10 Zimbabweans (41%) fully endorse the military intervention that cleared the way for President Emmerson Mnangagwa to take over.  Views on the military intervention vary considerably by province but only modestly by party affiliation. Despite widespread support or acceptance of the 2017 military intervention, large majorities reject military rule and any regular role for the military in the country’s politics.  Perceptions of military intervention: Most Zimbabweans see the military intervention that led to the resignation of President Mugabe as either ‘the right thing to do’ or ‘wrong but necessary,” said the survey from the Afrobarometer.

That the people’s trust in the military, at 55 percent is second to church leaders who are at 67 percent, better than the courts on number three at 51 percent is a profound statement that must be appreciated by all. Police who, over the past decade, had gained a great deal of infamy because of their bribe-demanding and taking activities among other crimes of impunity, are fourth at 50 percent.

There was little chance the military could outcompete church leaders given their spiritual role in a Christian nation as ours.  They pray for us; they lead us in our deepest interaction with God the Father, his Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.  A majority of Zimbabweans attach their physical, emotional and spiritual well being in the church, so it is not surprising that they trust their leaders in that area, while, of course, trusting God the most.

We are proud of the people’s trust in their soldiers but we aren’t surprised that the police fared so badly.  Probably they deserved a worse ranking given the recklessness with which some of them went about performing their duties in the old dispensation. They had made it their business committing crime, demanding and accepting bribes while coming down hard on anyone who attempted to question their criminality. The top leadership of the police was most rotten and their juniors joined in.

We are glad that President Mnangagwa’s administration moved swiftly to institute reforms in the police force by first ensuring that the then Commissioner General, Augustine Chihuri — blamed for much of the rot and personally accused of many transgressions — left office and second, working out a range of programmes to instill a new, pro-people policing culture.  It is everyone’s hope that the momentum would be maintained, even intensified for the police force to reclaim public trust and with it a better ranking.