Harare — TOP Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) commander Brigadier-General Douglas Nyikayaramba says President Robert Mugabe must remain in office for life and elections must be held this year to ensure "political stability" in the country.
Nyikayaramba, who is commander of 3 Infantry Brigade in Manicaland, also told the Zimbabwe Independent in an exclusive interview in the capital yesterday that Zanu PF would win the next elections. He however did not say how he knows that.
In stunning revelations, which clearly indicated the army was dabbling in politics and was the power behind Mugabe's throne, Nyikayaramba said the president (87) cannot be removed because he was irreplaceable like a "father" in a family.
"Why do you want to force him to go? Where were you when he crossed into Mozambique (to fight in the liberation struggle) and why didn't you go?" asked Nyikayaramba.
"If you can change your father in your family, then we can do the same, but has anyone ever changed his or her father just because he is old? Until your father dies only then can you have a stepfather -- that is that."
He said elections, which he claims Zanu PF would win, must be held this year because the inclusive government has failed to look after the army. He added that he suspected that the MDC-T-controlled Ministry of Finance was deliberately under-funding the military to incite soldiers to mutiny against their commanders.
"In our case (the military) we need elections like yesterday because it has created a lot of challenges in the military. We are not getting enough medicines from the inclusive government. Maybe they want the soldiers to mutiny," he said.
"We are not getting enough money for rations and enough money for uniforms etc and it has all to do with this inclusive government whose priorities are lopsided -- they don't understand the strategic benefits and importance of having a robust defence system. We would rather have one government."
Nyikayaramba, who once "retired" during the 2002 presidential poll to become chief elections officer in a bitter contest between President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, brushed aside the two MDC factions' call for security sector reforms, querying whether they understood what exactly they were talking about. He suggested that the parties do some research so that they come up with proper proposals of what they are talking about.
"I joined the liberation struggle when I was 14 years old from school. I grew up in the struggle and this was as a result of our political parties having failed to achieve political independence through negotiations ...then we saw the creation of a military wing of the political party (Zanu), Zanla for example in my case," said Nyikayaramba.
"There is that very close connection between Zanu PF and Zanla and you cannot afford to separate me from that. Truly speaking, I am in Zanu PF and Zanu PF is in me and you can't change that.
"Now we are a creation of that political party. When you talk about security sector reform, what are you talking about? In 1980, we were integrated and that was a transformation in itself, transforming from a guerilla organisation into a professional army.
"As we speak in terms of the training standards, we are the highest trained military personnel on the continent of Africa. We are even over trained for our roles - so what transformation are we talking about, what re-orientation are we talking about?"
Mugabe last week voiced the same views as Nyikayaramba, saying there was no need for security sector reform.
On calls for Mugabe to step down, Nyikayaramba said he believed that the Zanu PF leader should continue in power because he has sacrificed a lot for the country.
"He is the leader of our revolutionary struggle and the struggle is still on, why would you want him to leave when the struggle is still on? When the struggle is finished and he is happy that the struggle is through and we are entering a new dispensation, he will make an informed choice and an informed decision," Nyikayaramba said.
Asked what the military would do if someone without liberation war credentials won the elections, Nyikayaramba said the question was "irrelevant" because Zanu PF was assured of victory in the next elections.
"I don't see such a thing happening. It (the question) is very irrelevant based on factors on the ground. There is no such a possibility. It's a dream," he said.
"That question is irrelevant because that situation will never arise and I am sure everyone, including yourself, have now woken up to realise that he (Tsvangirai) is not the right candidate.
Nyikayaramba insisted, like the Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General Constantine Chiwenga and other senior security services chiefs, he would not salute Tsvangirai even if he won the elections.
"The bottom line is that I will not salute someone like that personally. I will resign if the political establishment accept it, if they do that would be fair and fine. It's not in me. Principle is indivisible - it is either yes or no. I am not a hypocrite; I will stand by what I have said.
"What I know is best, what I know is principled. We lost a lot of comrades because of some of these people when they turned against us during the liberation struggle and for me to wake up and say good morning sir, me no, no, no!"