Army, police still serving Zanu PF
THE mandate for the government of national unity (GNU), signed between Zimbabwe’s rival parties in February 2009, was clearly to; restore legitimacy to the country’s political system, foster economic recovery and provide security for both the transitional state and ensure public safety, all in preparation for free and fair elections.
Furthermore, given the acknowledged partisan nature of the existing institutions, the transitional government was also expected to lay the foundation for a multi-party democratic political system, including a complementary security system.
With the GNU’s end being heralded by a cacophony of calls for new elections, now is the moment to evaluate whether or not the preconditions for free and fair elections have been met: that is, the delivery of public and state security, and the undertaking of security sector reform.
In making this assessment, it is important to distinguish between the complementary tasks of re-establishing the environment of safety and security, and attending to the role, tasking and composition of the security sector. It is also important to reflect on the need for changes to a legislative framework that has so far encouraged impunity, and the need to provide judicial recourse to victims, both now and in the future.
As Joice Mujuru — the second secretary of Zanu PF and the country’s vice president — recently pointed out, the country does not wish to continue to be saddled with a partisan police force or security sector, nor does it wish to be identified as one where harassment and murders by state organs are the norm, with citizens reduced to “sleeping with one eye open” for fear of being harassed.
It should also be noted that the GNU’s inauguration was preceded by a mendacious approach to the question of command and control of security ministries and organs by Zanu PF. Even before the Sadc-adjudicated sharing of ministries had been completed, Zanu PF grabbed all the “hard” ministries, leaving the MDC-T saddled with the “empty” portfolios: the ministries of Finance, Education, Labour and Health, among others.
The then Sadc-appointed arbiter, former President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, failed to convince Zanu PF to observe the provisions of the agreement it had signed. Only one ministry, Home Affairs, was co-designated to ministers of both Zanu PF and the MDC-T in an unwieldy experiment that has proved difficult to effect.
As a result, because Zanu PF “appropriated” exclusive command and control of the security ministries, there is now an even heavier burden on its shoulders, away from what would have been an even-handed judgment on the triumvirate principals leading the GNU.
While the GPA provided for a review of ministries after six months, Zanu PF has continued to maintain exclusive control of the “hard” security sector ministries.
The same is true of the institutions where interaction has remained with the commanders reporting to the president and commander-in-chief, amid obvious public stunts designed to belittle the office of the prime minister.
Hence, despite the requirement that command and control of the security sector be shared during the transition, these have remained exclusively in the hands of Zanu PF.
Secondly, the GPA provided for the establishment of a National Security Council (NSC) to supersede the Joint Operational Command (Joc), a body that has been associated with stifling democratic space and the arbitrary arrest and harassment of members of the political opposition and the public.
The hope was that this would transfer security policy responsibility to the jurisdiction of the three principals. However, while the NSC Act was passed in March 2009, in practice there has been little or no meaningful change in terms of the president’s exclusive dominance over security issues.
Furthermore, apart from a reported reluctance to host NSC meetings, it has also emerged that no substantive security issues have been placed before the NSC when it meets. Instead, decisions continue to be taken outside the forum of the three principals and, much more worryingly, the discredited Joc has continued to operate as a parallel structure.
Finally, as the country prepares for elections, some senior Zanu PF officials have publicly adopted warmongering language, calling for the setting aside by military means of any election result if it were to lose the poll. These three points set the scene for us to look towards Zanu PF and not the GNU principals when asking whether or not security has been provided during the transitional period.
The first point of departure must be an acknowledgement that the GNU has in fact delivered on its mandate on the security question.
Certainly more could have been done, but there is evidence of progress in delivering a secure environment. This has allowed for a political and economic resurgence since the near-total collapse of the economy and the illegitimate political system that emerged after June 2008, which was shunned even by the Sadc and the AU.
Certainly more can and should be done, but the important foundation has been delivered. This assessment is not blind to the grabbing of the “hard” ministries and the passing over of the NSC, which has not exactly served its primary purpose and exists parallel to the Joc.
In order to predict the future structure of the security sector in Zimbabwe beyond the transitional period, it is instructive to look inside the competing factions within Zanu PF itself.
In this, we note the tension between two competing camps in Zanu PF: one that is prepared to use force and discount any influence of the ballot box, and another that is cognisant of faltering political support, not prepared to use illegal means of holding onto power, and therefore seeking to adopt a more moderate, conciliatory and democratic approach.
The analysis could discern which of the factions was on the rise at different points in the life of the transition as this manifested in the relationships between the principals.
Consequently we see a schizophrenic approach to normalising the situation, and while there remains a willingness to do more at policy level there has been only minimal change at the institutional level.While we acknowledge progress, the security institutions cited in the GPA as partisan and working to influence the political process in favour of Zanu PF are still intact.
They continue to act as spoilers and have surreptitiously deployed members for political work in preparation for further violence in the upcoming elections.
Even more significantly, Zanu PF has used the GNU’s transitional period to continue to deny the mainstreaming of the command and control of the security sector by the three principals.
As a result, the sector has remained in the exclusive control of one faction that may or may not win the next election, provoking yet more predictions of a return to the pre-GNU levels of violence, insecurity and instability.
Given the interest of Sadc and the AU in stability and free and fair elections in Zimbabwe after the transitional period, this finding may well serve as a clarion call for urgent and direct engagement with the actors in order to resolve the impasse thorough negotiations.
There are several issues that, combined, convince us that more urgent attention should be paid to security sector reform (SSR) in Zimbabwe. The first, for purposes of consolidating the country’s national
security, is a precondition for stable political and economic relations: policymakers must continue towards establishing the balanced civil-military relations that are conducive to stability and development.
Second, there is a need to address the institutional reforms agreed to in the GPA, including issues around national service, recruitment, civic education and human rights law training, as well as refocusing the security sector from a partisan role, embracing a more inclusive and effective national security council and doing away with the Joc.
As things stand, there is a lack of confidence and rapport between civil society and the uniformed forces in their civil-military relations.
Third, there is a need to bring into line economic resources allocated towards defence and security, in a country emerging from damaging political polarisation and economic crisis. Because of the residual nature of the conflicted relations with the international community, including financial institutions with sections of the GNU, Zimbabwe is surviving on a cash budget with no direct foreign budget support.
As a result, there is need for serious justification of the finite resources in order to respond to genuine national needs.
- Dr Martin Rupiya is executive director of The African Policy and Research Institute. He once worked briefly in Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s office as a security director. This article was first published in The Zimbabwe Independent