We have become so inured to the Constitution either being breached or ignored that we hardly ever bother any more to react to the most egregious unconstitutional behaviour of our state agents. When General Chiwenga makes frequent political statements, the proper response is not merely to condemn him for meddling in politics or taking sides in the internal affairs of ZANU-PF, as various members of political parties and political commentators have done, it is to demand legal action in terms of the Constitution.
As constitutional expert, Derek Matyszak, pointed out in respect of General Chiwenga’s last public utterances, the general is in breach of the Constitution, and he should be disciplined for this. Lest there be any doubt here, look at what the Constitution says in Section 208:
208 Conduct of members of security services
(1) Members of the security services must act in accordance with this Constitution and the law.
(2) Neither the security services nor any of their members may, in the exercise of their functions—
(a) act in a partisan manner;
(b) further the interests of any political party or cause;
(c) prejudice the lawful interests of any political party or cause; or
(d) violate the fundamental rights or freedoms of any person.
(3) Members of the security services must not be active members or office-bearers of any political party or organisation.
(4) Serving members of the security services must not be employed or engaged in civilian institutions except in periods of public emergency.
For further amplification of the sentiments expressed in Section 208, the Constitution makes this even more specific in Section 211:
211 Defence Forces
(3) The Defence Forces must respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all persons and be non-partisan, national in character, patriotic, professional and subordinate to the civilian authority as established by this Constitution.
This is no new phenomenon, and, on multiple occasions, senior members of the security services breach both the Constitution and their enabling legislation, the Police and the Defence Forces Acts. Yet there has never been either any evidence of disciplinary action being taken or public repudiation by the government of this obvious contempt for the Constitution or the law.
The reason for taking this more seriously than mere condemnation is that this kind of behaviour goes to the heart of the “securocrat state”, and the conflation of state and regime underwritten by the security sector. Without an absolute commitment to constitutionalism, it is not possible for the citizen to fully participate in the political life of the country, and certainly not possible for anyone to have any confidence in an election. As was pointed out recently, the total and public adherence by the security sector to the Constitution is one of a list of fundamental reforms needed before any political party contemplates participating in an election.
However, the point really is not just about elections, but about reform of the state, the breaking of the regime-military-state conflation, and this must happen with urgency. We have a Constitution and it has all the tools for reform and reconstruction: this requires more than mere complaint when the Constitution is violated in front of our eyes.