ZAPU leader Dumiso Dabengwa says army generals who have threatened to veto the political transition if President Robert Mugabe loses the forthcoming election cannot stand in the way of a popularly-elected government.
Recalling the Lancaster House negotiations in 1979, the ex-intelligence supremo said even Rhodesian army commanders including general Peter Walls had vowed not to accept a rule by “terrorists”, but when push came to shove after Mugabe’s 1980 electoral victory, the army was following civilian orders.
Speaking to journalists yesterday, Dabengwa indicated that negotiations towards forming a grand coalition are still under way and did not rule out the prospects of a poll pact with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the subject of ridicule from service chiefs.
“The so-called threat of the army is no threat at all,” Dabengwa said.
“I don’t see the army taking matters into its hands, we might have had that experience but it is all in the past, I don’t think they will try it this time around.”
Sabre rattling from service chiefs, some of whom have described Tsvangirai as a “psychiatric patient”, have fuelled speculation that the country may descend into a military rule if the former trade unionist wins the imminent elections.
However, Dabengwa said if army bosses attempt to subvert the will of the people, they would not get away easily.
“I do not think the army will go that far because they know they will not get away with such.
“It is the people who choose leaders and not the army, soldiers can say whatever they want to say but at the end of the day they will follow civilian leadership,” he said.
Citing the new Constitution which clips the wings of army bosses and also introduces a 10-year term limit on service chiefs, Dabengwa said prospects of a coup in Zimbabwe were slim.
At its extraordinary meeting on Zimbabwe in Maputo, Mozambique on June 15, Sadc underscored the need for haggling coalition partners Mugabe and Tsvangirai to ensure that the forthcoming elections are held under conditions fertile to produce an undisputed result.
The 15-member regional bloc, urged Mugabe — who has repeatedly dodged implementing security sector reforms since 2009 — to publicly call his troops to order so as to restore public confidence in the army, widely regarded as pro-Zanu PF.