Military coup a possibility

July 20, 2011 at 9:34 am 1 comment

In recent weeks, the military’s top brass has taken on a visible role in the country’s political affairs. In addition, they has been brazenly opposed to the Movement for Democratic Change’s (MDC) security sector reforms, an MDC-listed prerequisite before free and fair elections.

The military, alarmed by growing factionalism, and persistent rumours of President Robert Mugabe’s failing health, has coalesced around army commander Constantine Chiwenga to deal with the latest “threats” to the status quo.
Political analyst Eldred Masunungure made this observation in a report entitled, The Anatomy of Political Predation — Leaders, Elites and Coalitions: the historical trend by the military to dabble in Zimbabwe’s politics in order to rescue Zanu (PF) during its times of crisis.

Mr Masunungure highlights the military’s involvement during Zimbabwe’s crisis points in the 1980s, 2000 and in the disputed 2008 presidential elections.He says the army’s lead role has come about due to Zanu (PF)’s myriad problems that threaten its survival.But the current political speculation that Chiwenga could take over power from Mugabe is said to have stoked fresh tension within the party divided between two longtime rivals, Joyce Mujuru and Emmerson Mnangagwa.Zanu (PF) insiders say the prospect of a military takeover has forced both factions to approach the MDC for post- Mugabe coalition talks. A move confirmed by MDC spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora.

Confirmation of Chiwenga’s political ambitions are pending, the succession race is likely to pull in former army commander Solomon Mujuru. He is another Zanu (PF) heavyweight and believed to wield considerable influence within the army’s ranks. Popularly known for favouring, the ascendancy of his wife (Joyce Mujuru) to power.

Speaking to Business Day, a top military insider downplayed a clash between the two heavyweights and said, “People from the army are not known for being puppets and Chiwenga is very influential because he is the commander of the air force and the army.“He controls everything and he knows he is in the perfect place to vie for a political position.“Mujuru is in the council of elders; those people who ensure Zanu (PF) is on the right track, but he does not really hold any power, just respect from his comrades,” said the insider.

Mr Chiwenga also sits as chairperson of the Joint Operations Command, a military outfit that brings together the army, police and intelligence services and reports directly to Mr Mugabe.Mr Tsvangirai has called it a “military junta”. Since 1985, Zimbabwe’s security organs have been under the Office of the President, which has made their expenditure and activities less transparent and left them unaccountable even to the ministry of finance, which has given it substantial sums of the fiscal.

Now UK-based SW Radio Africa believed to have leaked nearly 500 names of purported Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) agents earlier this month, a move that rocked the security structures, which have relied on invisibility to infiltrate businesses and political parties and track down political opponents.With the leak — a list of state security agents stationed across the country — it is likely that Zanu (PF)’s attempts to control the electoral process, for which it has traditionally relied on the CIO agents to intimidate the rural electorate, are certain to have been thrown into fresh disarray.

Retired air marshal Henry Muchena is said to be deploying Zanu (PF) paramilitary groups and army officials throughout rural areas — a strategy to bolster Zanu (PF)’s position in the polls.Therefore, while Sadc may continue to put pressure on Zimbabwe`s organization, it is to the country’s military establishment that the regional body may need to turn its attention now.

An analyst and senior member of the Welshman Ncube-led MDC, Qhubani Moyo, says, “The securocrats have been the king lynchpin for the regime which has been in charge. It is inevitable that they are an identifiable part of the problem and in many respects therefore part of the solution.”Meanwhile, a security and defence expert has said the main key to security sector reform is to ensure the armed forces do not influence the electoral process in favour of one particular party.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s former advisor, Dr Martin Rupiya a respcted Southern Africa Security expert and former Senior Zimbabwe National Army on Wednesday said it is not correct to suggest security sector reforms (SSR) are part of a regime change agenda by those opposed to ZANU PF.

He said SSR is the set of policies, plans, programs and activities that a government undertakes to improve the way it provides safety, security and justice to its citizens.However, ZANU PF has flatly refused to allow security sector reforms, arguing their will serve to oust Robert Mugabe from power.

The MDC has demanded these reforms saying the military junta led by Mugabe loyalists has powers that put them above the law and that blocked the transfer of power when Mugabe lost the Presidential election to Morgan Tsvangirai three years ago.
Instead of serving the population the country’s army, police, CIO and air force are ZANU PF`s means to oppress Mugabe’s opponents. The Junta has been the most important instrument through which Mugabe and ZANU PF have maintained power since independence.
‘The reform of this sector is very important in order to break with the past. Zimbabwe is in this situation of an inclusive government because of the intervention by the security sector soon after the overwhelming vote for change by Zimbabweans in 2008,’ Rupiya said.He added: ‘The overall objective of SSR is to provide and promote an effective and legitimate public service by the armed forces that is transparent, accountable to civilian authority and not what has been peddled by ZANU PF.’After operating with impunity for almost 30 years, the MDC-T now wants Parliament to debate how government can control the operations of the armed forces.

Settlement Chikwinya, the MDC-T MP for Mbizvo in KweKwe, was due to bring forward a motion in Parliament on Wednesday to discuss the army chiefs, calling on them to stop interfering in politics. At the time of our news deadline, discussions in parliament were ongoing and no information had emerged as to what had happened.‘The issue is that we want Parliament to ensure these service chiefs reaffirm loyalty to the constitution and the laws of Zimbabwe such as the Defence Forces, the Police Act and Prisons Act,’ Chikwinya said.Analysts believe that reforming the security sector in emerging democracies is one of the most important and difficult activities facing any government.

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