Mugabe and Generals playing last card

ZIMBABWE's state security forces – the army, police and intelligence services – have warned President Robert Mugabe and Zanu-PF political negotiators not to accept demands by representatives of the two MDC factions to reform the securocratic apparatus during talks in Cape Town.

Senior military officers told the Sunday Times on Friday that they had told Mugabe at the Joint Operations Commands meetings, to ensure that Zanu-PF negotiators did not give ground on the sensitive issue of the security sector reforms. The JOC brings together army, police and intelligence chiefs, as well as Mugabe and security ministers.

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Negotiators Patrick Chinamasa and Nicholas Goche have now been instructed to tread carefully during talks on the issue and reject demands for reform. State security service chiefs have also refused to dismantle the JOC despite the establishment of the National Security Council, which was expected to replace it.

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“We have told the president many times at JOC meetings that he must not allow his party negotiators to agree to security sector reforms because we know the agenda of the US and European Union is to weaken us and aid and abet the takeover of government by Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC-T,” a senior army commander said.

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“They know that the last line of defence for Gushungo (Mugabe) is us and that’s why they are very anxious to weaken the security forces through so-called reforms.”

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Another senior army commander said Chinamasa and Goche have clear instructions to reject the reform proposals. The MDC negotiators are demanding security sector reforms before the next elections.

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They also want political principals to “instruct the security forces to issue a public statement that they will unequivocally uphold the constitution and respect the rule of law in the lead-up to and following the elections or referendum”.

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However, Zanu-PF negotiators refused to agree to this, saying “this is not an election matter”.

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Chinamasa and Goche insisted “political parties have no right to direct uniformed forces to issue political statements”.

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This is despite the fact that security forces have been openly dabbling in politics in recent years to prop up Mugabe and Zanu-PF.

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Inter-party negotiators started on Thursday in Cape Town and were due to end yesterday. The talks are aimed at producing a road map to free and fair elections.

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Other negotiators are Tendai Biti and Elton Mangoma of MDC-T and Moses Mzila Ndlovu and Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga of MDC-N.

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SA President Jacob Zuma’s facilitation team of Charles Nqakula, Mac Maharaj and Lindiwe Zulu is involved in the negotiations in Cape Town.

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Negotiations deadlocked mainly on the staffing of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the role of the security forces in political processes and electoral politics.

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A senior negotiator, who refused to be named since parties agreed to a media blackout, said on Friday talks had started off “well” but “we have now entered into the difficult part of the process”.

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“The agenda of the meeting is to finalise the Global Political Agreement review document with the facilitators and also to look into the road map, particularly areas of disagreements. The role of facilitators is to help us to break the stalemate,” the negotiator said.

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“We started off well but we know Zanu-PF negotiators have been told not to make concessions on critical issues such the ZEC and security sector reforms. We are determined to find a compromise, but we know it will be difficult.”

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The negotiators and facilitators are pushing to finalise their talks before the extraordinary Southern African Development Community summit in Windhoek, Namibia, on May 20.

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SADC leaders told Mugabe in Zambia last month they were “disappointed” and were increasingly “impatient” with him over GPA issues and are set to read the riot act to him in Windhoek. – TimesLive