Zimbabwe Parties Disagree Over Security Reforms As SADC Meets In Angola

August 18, 2011 at 7:29 am Leave a comment

The MDC formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai says a democratic
transition cannot be achieved through free and fair elections if the
military, the police and other security services continue to meddle in the
process

by Violet Gonda

In recent months the issue of security sector reform has moved to the center
of talks within Zimbabwe’s chronically troubled power sharing government.

The Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan
Tsvangirai says a democratic transition cannot be achieved through free and
fair elections if the military, the police and other security services
continue to meddle in the process.

The phrase security sector reform has become highly politically charged,
however, with ZANU-PF officials bristling over the perceived slight to the
liberation heritage and, where regional mediation is concerned, the
perceived violation of national sovereignty.

Zimbabwe’s constitution says the army, police and Central Intelligence
Organization, must be non-partisan with allegiance to no single party but to
the nation as a whole.

Since Zimbabwe’s national unity government was formed in February 2009, both
formations of the MDC have hoped for more accountability on the part of the
military, but to little avail. So the two former opposition parties are
pressing now for reforms.

Civil society also says such reform is essential before the next elections
are held.

Various service chiefs and senior officers have made what some see as
unconstitutional – even treasonous – statements regarding Prime Minister
Morgan Tsvangirai and the outcome of eventual national elections. Yet
President Robert Mugabe and Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa say Zimbabwe’s
military is above reproach.

Thus security sector reform is a key point of dispute in drawing up the
election road map that South African President Jacob Zuma as mediator in
Harare is expected to present to SADC this week. But it is not entirely
clear what proponents of reform really want.

Jameson Timba, a minister of state in the prime minister’s office, says
reform has more to do with the attitudes of senior military branch
commanders than with the law.

MDC formation leader Welshman Ncube says the security sector is an armed
wing of ZANU-PF, and this cannot continue. He says Zimbabwe’s laws on the
military are like those of other nations, but politicians have abused the
defense forces.

Retired Major Cairo Mhandu, ZANU-PF lawmaker for Mazowe North and a member
of the parliamentary committee on defense, dismissed demands for reform,
saying it is unnecessary as the Defense Act and Police Act offer sufficient
safeguards. He says the MDC is pushing reform as a means to remove certain
service chiefs.

Proponents of reform say the 2008 Global Political Agreement for power
sharing states that security forces took a partisan role in the last
elections.

Martin Rupiya, executive director of the Africa Public Policy and Research
Institute, says the pact stipulated the need for reform and recommended the
passage of an Intelligence Act. But he adds that its signatories have
reinterpreted parts of the agreement.

The GPA signatories also agreed to set up the National Security Council to
oversee the national security establishment. But Ncube says that
“regrettably” the National Security Council wields little authority, while
the Joint Operations Command of senior military, police and intelligence
officials continues to function clandestinely.

The two MDC formations and other observers say the main obstacle or threat
to the unity government and to an eventual democratic transition is the
security sector elite whose terms have been unilaterally extended by
President Mugabe.

Rupiya notes that many African countries following liberation placed their
military under civilian control. Even in the Southern African region where
liberation was a relatively recent process, countries like South Africa are
now more focused on development issues and maintain small military
establishments. But Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle has been personalized and
senior military officials answer only to President Mugabe.

Executive Director Gabriel Shumba of the South African-based Zimbabwe Exiles
Forum said ZANU-PF’s refusal to discuss reform can only further delay
elections, and therefore SADC, guarantor of power sharing with the African
Union, should intervene.

But ZANU-PF says SADC should not meddle in the military affairs of a member
nation.

Mhandu said the contentious issue should be referred to the parliamentary
committee on home affairs and defense. But Ncube said the president as the
commander in chief must demand that senior military officers heed the laws
regarding their conduct.

Otherwise, Ncube maintained, SADC has the right and the means to pressure
Harare on this issue. Critics say little of substance has been achieved
through SADC mediation in Zimbabwe. But Rupiya believes the regional
grouping remains fully engaged.

This week’s summit may reveal the extent to which SADC leaders are willing
to push Mr. Mugabe and ZANU-PF to reform the military to allow free and fair
elections.

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