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The military has a constitutional mandate to support a civilian authority and maintain peace

12 Aug 2018 at 21:53hrs | Views
On the eve of the elections results and for three further nights, a small minority took to the streets in some of our urban centres looting, vandalising, burning, terrorising the law abiding majority. They burnt cars buses plucked down election posters of ED and they declared their own election results. They then in the full glare of the international community and press marched to the election command with the view of disrupting the electoral process and demonize Zimbabwe.  

It was so clear that everyone was taken by surprise by the manner in which the violence spread. And the world was shocked by the silence  of the press. There was partisan reporting. Nobody in the whole world condemned the barbaric violence started by the MDC Alliance. Biti who incited the violence and caused the deaths of over Six  innocent souls drew unbelievable sympathy from the West and America yet no one raised a finger against his instigation of violence.  

MDC used copy cat opportunism fuelled by digital communications which made mob gatherings at the Harvest House where they were fed with alcohol and drugs preparing them for a chaotic mission bent on the same criminal end.

In response, the police adjusted their tactics and order was reasserted, but not before the cry went up from some quarters to put the army on the streets. The police were both compromised and outnumbered the country would have been in flames if this chaos was left unattended.
The peace lovers shared the feelings of frustration and disgust that must have been behind such calls. But it had to be done. Some strong force was to be put on the street. The army was finally called in.
It should be noted that in situations of such gravity there is merit in keeping all options available to you on the table. The best option was to call in the army.

It provides decisions makers with the ability to escalate response if necessary, which in itself can have a deterrent effect. So in this case any reasonable leader would have called in the army in.
So the decision was not necessarily unhelpful.
The police confirmed thy would have all their management team out on the streets before they asked for the army. At this time most police officers were deployed in polling stations and the numbers for reactionary purpose was limited.

There is much that defence can do to help facilitate the work of the police and other authorities providing niche capabilities or aiding capacity, even freeing up police in certain circumstances to enable more to take to the streets.

But putting military forces on the streets themselves in a public order role should only happen as a last resort.
Despite the unfortunate deaths of the innocent civilians people forgot how much our armed forces do, often unseen, often unsung, to defend the homeland and to make sure that, whenever they are needed, they can mobilise to save lives, protect people and safeguard our way of life. Protect the gains of our independence. For the people to be able to vote the journey to such a fit was colored by the blood of our sons and many who are in the army today.   
The maintenance of order remained a primary role of national armed forces, whether regular or militia in Zimbabwe and world over.
In Zimbabwe the national footprint of the army meant that when the police is overpowered it was often the local regiment that responded.

The Army has operated in a law enforcement role against smugglers and pirates in much the same way as they operated against the national enemy.
But the dangers of using the same organisation for national law enforcement as that trained and used for fighting wars against foreign armies were clear on the 2nd of August  2018.

The Events of August disturbances is an infamous example of why this system was wholly inappropriate for a country embracing modern democracy.

When men trained in the cavalry charge and the use of lethal force against foreign infantry, came face to face with the confusion, chaos and provocation of a domestic mob bent on venting anger, inevitably mistakes would be made. The overzealous soldier who shot several people was an example of a rogue soldier.
And that mistake was fatal.
We all want the army to be a popular institution and not a menace to civil liberty. The events of August while being deplorable they were neccessary.

It was only when, during the mayhem that the police proved themselves NOT capable of maintaining order without assistance that the role of the armed forces in public order became that of last resort, the last defence against insurrection.

We should know that the armed forces have been used in the United Kingdom in a civil order role and no other country raised a ginger. One wonders why all this noise when it comes to Zimbabwe.

Those who are trained in the use of lethal force, trained for battle, trained to impose their will by force on an enemy, trained for the express use of defending the territory and citizens of the country against external threats, they should not be regularly used as an instrument of force against the citizens of that same country. But when the sovereignty of that country is at stake the brave AK wielding men and women should spring to the defense of the nation.    

Many countries continue to maintain gendarmerie type forces specifically to deal with major riots or insurrection often under the command of interior ministries rather than defence ministries.But when it comes to where it matters the army is romped in to maintain peace and order.

But crucially these gendarmeries, like our own riot police, are trained to deal with the circumstances they are likely to face, mobs of civilians, maybe even lightly armed. But on this day our police force was dotted around the poling stations.  
So our soldiers had to fill in the gape.
They are also, like our own riot police, fully aware of the legal underpinning of what they are doing and the action of that day was justified except for the killing of innocent civilians by the insane man in uniform.

This is not what our armed forces are trained for, not what they joined to do. It was a very unfortunate situation and it will never ever be repeated.

They would of course have done what was asked, and they would have acted professionally and with self discipline, but it was not what they were asked to do when they ended up with blood in their hands.

We learned that we need to prepare carefully for deliberate operations with thorough pre-deployment training, including an understanding of the social and legal context and very robust rules of engagement.

This would not have been the case if we had not rushed the army onto the streets to deal with rioters after the elections.
It should be pointed out that policing in this country is traditionally undertaken by consent and by the police. This time our police were overwhelmed.  

Our armed forces are built on an entirely different premise, they exist to defend the people of this country and on this day they did just that.
The coming of the army on the streets meant two things.  
Either the police have been so overwhelmed by endemic disorder or factional unrest that emergency measures are required to protect people, in other words, a social collapse.
What happened in these riots was politically motivated.
This wasn't social protest, it was criminality.
As a society and a government we have to learn the right lessons.

The security services too need to be sure they are better prepared for a new type of mob mentality enabled by digital communications that need not be geographically isolated.

But government has to maintain both a sense of proportion and a sense of propriety when responding to situations like this.

In circumstances where the police maintained the capacity to respond, putting the army on the streets would have been wrong and an over-reaction. But in this case the police needed help.

It may well have been satisfying for some but it wouldn't have been satisfactory.we must trust our generals to know when the scale or nature of the problem is sufficient to require extraordinary military intervention on home territory.
The standing tasks of Zimbabwe's armed forces include a number of operations that could be described as homeland defence.

But the safety and security of citizens in the Zimbabwe is primarily the responsibility of the Home affairs with the police the lead agency in most instances.
So what is the correct role for the military in safeguarding the safety of citizens on home territory?
When should the armed forces provide, to use its technical term, military aid to the civil authority?
The answer is simple when the security of the citizens is threatened.
When nurses and doctors engaged on strikes. The army stepped in.  No one complained.  
The country was not as prepared as it could have been to meet large scale events.
But the armed forces are one of the only organisations in Zimbabwe that can provide, even at short notice, sufficient numbers of disciplined, organised and motivated personnel to carry out essential tasks, however distasteful, to save lives, to ensure the continuity of supplies and services, and to provide support when the civil authorities are stretched.
The reality is the armed forces do not seek, and do not expect, to fill gaps that can and should more appropriately be filled by other government agencies or through the use of commercial operators.

The armed forces need to concentrate on core defence tasks to plan for them, train for them, and generate forces against them.
These are highly trained men and women, highly capable and highly expensive to mobilise. Calling them on the streets is highly considerate.  

That is why it is imperative that the principles behind military aid to the civil authorities are well understood by the public. The public must know that Where they are required, particularly at short notice, it makes sense for the armed forces to be called and attend.
It must be known that the armed forces are prepared to assist where necessary including in a riotous situation.

On this, the armed forces respond on any call for help.
The armed forces have the capacity to augment any emergency response, drawing on people and resources available at the time, if the scale or duration of any emergency threatens to overwhelm civil capabilities, particularly where the need is urgent and lives are in danger.

This includes responding to natural disasters or emergency situations created by extreme weather or criminals purporting to be political parties.

Over the years servicemen and women have been used by government to maintain essential services and supplies in the event of disruption, usually, but not always, as a result of an industrial dispute.
the case is different where vital services affecting the health, life or safety of large cities or great concentrations of people are concerned."
It is this caveat, alongside the principles of capacity and capability, which underpins our modern approach to the use of the armed forces at times of industrial dispute.

Of course, most operations under military aid to the civil power contain a requirement for both capacity and capability.

The experience of other countries is that military assistance is required in a number of roles - including, but not restricted to, securing air space, maritime security, and contingency for rapid response.

So it is no surprise that the Army is involved in the peace keeping in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe is confident that, as a whole, we have the got the role of the armed forces in civil contingencies system right?
The country is certainly confident in the capacity, professionalism and commitment of our armed forces to tackle any task thrown at them we should not lose sight of the primary role of our armed forces, to maintain the capability to apply lethal force against those who would threaten the citizens of our nation and the interests of our country.
The ability to project power and protect our interests, must be the driver for defence capability.
Back in August, when the crisis on the streets of Harare was the focus of our media, it was the peace and tranquility of the nation that were correctly the focus of our armed forces.
These brave men and women truly represent Zimbabwe at its best.
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Source - Dr Masimba Mavaza
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