Security reform tops agenda

HARARE – Security sector reform is emerging as the most significant outstanding issue confronting the GPA and the MDC is pushing hard for it to be high on the agenda at this week’s SADC summit.\r\n

Since President Robert Mugabe and Zanu (PF) lost the 2008 elections to the MDC led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the military has been running the country from behind the scenes.

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In effect, what happened during the weeks between the holding of elections and the announcement of the results was a silent, bloodless coup. Nation-wide violence and widespread intimidation of the people of Zimbabwe has been carried out with military precision ever since.

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The appointment last year of Air Marshal Henry Muchena as Zanu (PF)’s campaign director saw the resurgence of political violence and the re-establishment of torture bases around the country, each under the control of a military commander – known as “the boys on leave”.

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The SADC Troika in March highlighted security sector reform as a key issue in the roadmap towards free and fair elections for Zimbabwe. Security chiefs make no secret of their allegiance to Zanu (PF) and their abuse of their position through treasonous statements and actions.

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MDC-T chief negotiator Tendai Biti said last week: “We demand that our service chiefs abide by the laws of Zimbabwe.”

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The MDC said that it was going to the SADC summit with a bold statement on the need for security sector reforms. “The MDC will call upon SADC to help end all-state sponsored violence in Zimbabwe,” said Biti.

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He hinted that his party had reached a compromise with Zanu (PF) to be presented to the SADC summit next week, but said “I cannot comment on the matter before we go to the summit.”

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Sources said the MDC-T, which had initially called for sweeping changes in the security sector, had agreed that the service chiefs could keep their positions, but insisted that “the party wants them to sign statements undertaking to abide by the constitution of Zimbabwe and respect the will of the people in any election.”

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The party’s spokesman, Douglas Mwonzora, said there had been no shift in the party’s position, which was that “for free and fair elections to occur they must be security sector reforms”.

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Mwonzora insisted that the MDC would accept nothing less than a removal of partisanship and bias in the security sector. Brigadier General Douglas Nyikayaramba’s recent outrageous statement that he would never salute Tsvangirai as President has been widely condemned.

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Outgoing Germany Ambassador, Albretch Conze said that “Generals should stay in their barracks. It never works if generals mix in politics, not anywhere in the world.”

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The Zimbabwe Liberators Platform said all unprofessional service chiefs should resign. “The objective of security sector reform is to mould a professional non-partisan national defence force and other state security arms into national institutions that respect the will of the people,” said Wilfred Mhanda, of the ZLP. University of Zimbabwe political scientist, Dr John Makumbe said SADC should be firm on security sector reforms.

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“If Zanu (PF) insists that the security structures remain unformed and partisan, that should constitute a breach of the agreement and the roadmap, resulting in further delays to the holding of elections in this country,” said Makumbe.

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Meanwhile, this newspaper’s report earlier this year that Defence Forces Commander Constantine Chiwenga was planning to take over from Mugabe has been confirmed.

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Media reports last week said a group of disgruntled generals were urging Chiwenga to retire from the army and enter the succession race. Observers said senior military officers were increasingly jittery about their futures, given Mugabe’s ill-health and SADC’s determination to push for free and fair elections.

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“They want a military man in the top seat who can safeguard their interests and protect them from international prosecution for crimes against humanity,” said one political analyst. – The Zimbabwean