Brass meet on violence

ZIMBABWE's political leaders are battling to contain an eruption of political violence which has outraged human rights groups and civil society bodies ahead of anticipated elections later this year, as the future of the inclusive government remains uncertain.

Alarmed by the wave of violence sweeping through the country, the Zimbabwe’s top political leadership met on Friday as the National Security Council (NSC), chaired by President Robert Mugabe, tries to tackle the upsurge in violence before it spins out of control.

Apart from Mugabe, others who attend the NSC include co-vice-presidents Joyce Mujuru and John Nkomo, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputies, Thokozani Khuphe and Arthur Mutambara.

The other members of the council are Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, State Security Minister Sydney Sekeramayi, Presidential Affairs Minister Didymus Mutasa, Finance Minister Tendai Biti, co-Home Affairs Ministers Kembo Mohadi and Theresa Makone, Energy and Power Minister Elton Mangoma, Industry and Trade Minister Welshman Ncube and security service chiefs including the army commander, police commissioner, head of prisons and the director-general of intelligence.

Tsvangiari’s spokesman, Luke Tamborinyoka, said on Friday: "I can confirm that the National Security Council met this morning, but I can’t go into the details." However, senior members of the council told the Sunday Times the meeting was about the political violence rocking the country. Makone had confirmed before the meeting that violence would take centre stage.

A senior minister said later: "We discussed a lot of issues, but the most critical debate centred on political violence. The country’s leadership is worried about the situation and wants to take effective measures to stop this violence before it gets out of hands.We need to deal seriously with this issue. We can’t allow this situation to continue.

"It’s unacceptable. In fact, there should be an investigation so that leaders and politicians who incite political violence can be arraigned and punished," he said.

The NSC is a structure created under the Global Political Agreement (GPA) to deal with security issues. Parties in the inclusive government had agreed that the council must meet every first Friday of each month. Mugabe has not been keen to convene the council meetings because they provide an opportunity for his rivals to criticise him and his Zanu-PF party, but was forced to call this week’s meeting because of public anger over the violence.

Mugabe’s Zanu-PF and Tsvangirai’s MDC-T have for a long time now been fighting over the functions of the NSC.

The MDC-T wants the Joint Operations Command (JOC), Mugabe’s building block to power, to be dismantled and to have its responsibilities taken over by the NSC. But Zanu-PF has refused, arguing that the NSC could not replace the JOC because it dealt with policy issues, while the NSC focused on operational matters.

Another minister said the NSC dealt with political violence at length because "it’s the most compelling public security issue facing the country at the moment".

Mugabe, who controls the country’s security bodies, is under pressure to deal with the violence, which is blamed mostly on his party and its supporters.

Last week Tsvangirai met Mugabe to deal with the problem.

In terms of the GPA, parties have an obligation to guarantee the security of citizens and prevent violence. The government also has this obligation in terms of the constitution.

The GPA says parties have an obligation to "renounce and desist from promoting and using violence, under whatever name called, as of a means attainting political ends".

The latest political violence erupted mainly in Harare townships where Zanu-PF and MDC-T supporters had been fighting running battles.

The two parties blame each other for the violence.

Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena has blamed the MDC-T for the violence, prompting the party to say he must be fired for being partisan. The MDC-T also says police commissioner-general Augustine Chihuri must go for failing to do his job.

With upsurge in political violence – and tensions within the inclusive government over the lifespan of the coalition arrangement – the European Union (EU) is set to renew targeted sanctions on Mugabe and his cronies on Wednesday when its ministers meet in Brussels. The latest violence is likely to force the EU to maintain the sanctions.

An advocacy group, the Centre for Development, has urged parliament to investigate the ongoing violence so that perpetrators could be punished.

Another civic group, Restoration of Human Rights, has also denounced the current violence and churches in Zimbabwe have done the same.

Amnesty International this week also urged the coalition government to "act on ongoing human rights abuses and institute reforms of the security sector and the media".  – TimesLive