30 July 2009: Mnangagwa Explains Why Service Chiefs Will Not Salute Tsvangirai

Emmerson Mnangagwa, Minister of Defence and Mugabe's now-certain heir, seen here with PM Morgan Tsvangirai in parliament, answered questions in the House yesterday after a delay of some months during which parliamentarians complained to the Speaker and the media that the Minister was not availing himself to answer their questions. He was asked about the failure or reluctance by the Service Chiefs to salute the Prime Minister and he fobbed them all off with a flimsy explanation.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Minister of Defence and Mugabe heir-apparent yesterday told parliament why the service chiefs will not salute Tsvangirai in an explanation that was clearly lacking in sincerity, as I will explain.

Mnangagwa was shown on Newshour on ZTV last night explaining that the Service Chiefs only salute the president of the country as the Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces. He pointed out that the Service Chiefs were also absent at the very low-key swearing-in of Vice-Presidents and that this showed their failure to salute Tsvangirai was not sinister.

I have pointed out the flaw in this argument before, when I told you on this blog that Dr Makoni, for instance, points out that it is inaccurate to say the armed forces only salute the Commander-in-Chief.

Dr Makoni pointed out that when he was minister, "When I went to the Staff College, for instance, even when armed forces personnel met me in the corridors, they always saluted."

The principle here is recognising the authority of the civilian government, from whom the army take their commands. According to proper procedure, Mugabe is not a one-man band that operates government as he sees fit.

He is advised by cabinet, but has usurped the role of cabinet to an extent where that body is now just a rubber stamp where Mugabe's word and wishes carry the day. He, in fact, is now cabinet.

Which means when the MDCs condone this behaviour, they are endorsing the role of cabinet as a rubber stamp for Mugabe and a talking shop where they come to listen to "what the boss has to say."

So, according to proper procedure, Service Chiefs are supposed to salute any member of the civilian authority because they report to that authority as a body and not to an individual.

Still, there is nothing the MDC can do about this. The parliamentarians who heard this explanation from the Minister of Defence yesterday did not press home the point.

It is a particular failure of the MDCs in government that they believe that simply asking questions is enough. They do not insist on their rights and their points. Just as Tsvangirai accepts at face value explanations about the civil service being non-partisan, the whole MDC accepts whatever line is fed them by ZANU PF and The Solution.

Still, it was the Service Chiefs themselves, as well as MDC-T supporters who made an issue out of this. We all know of the truckloads of MDC-T youths who rode around Harare on 11 February when Tsvangirai was sworn in, chanting, "Muchamusaluta chete Morgan!" (You will salute Morgan whether you like it or not).

The Service Chiefs had made it clear that they would not salute him even if he were to become president, essentially meaning that the Chiefs were saying they would not allow him to ascend to that office.

Curiously, the legislators who questioned the Minister yesterday failed to ask why, if this was just a matter of protocol, the Service Chiefs are STILL refusing to attend meetings of the National Security Council, which Tsvangirai is a senior member of and which is supposed to replace JOC.

So, it was a whitewash, then. But MDC-T apologists and supporters accept this even as they praise Mugabe as indispensable and irreplaceable. Even as they applaud their leader when he says Mugabe "is not going anywhere"!!

MDC-T supporters and their leader are now, as we all know, Mugabe's No 1 supporters and fans.

Mnangagwa had been slippery on this issue going back to the end of February, when the MDC-T parliamentarians indicated that they had put questions down for the Defence Minister but that he was failing to avail himself.


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