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Military still in charge of polls

Gift Phiri

THREE years after the widely-condemned presidential poll, military and intelligenceofficers, who as election agents helped President Robert Mugabe to retain power, remain in charge, the Zimbabwe I

ndependent learnt this week.

Official sources said army and intelligence officers seconded by Mugabe to the Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC) ahead of the presidential poll in 2002 were still supervising the electoral process on behalf of Zanu PF.

Government recently appointed retired Brigadier Kennedy Zimondi chief elections officer, replacing Brigadier Douglas Nyikayaramba, who was a key agent during the presidential poll. Sources said Brigadier Nyikayaramba, who is currently stationed at 2 Brigade, was removed from the ESC after loud protests by opposition parties and civic society that he could not be part of the electoral supervisory body while he was a serving officer of the army.

Former ESC chair Sobusa Gula-Ndebele — a former military intelligence officer who was appointed the new Attorney-General recently — has been replaced by Theophilus Gambe, a commissioner who presided over the flawed 2000 and 2002 elections.

The Independent understands that several military and intelligence officers are still in charge of the official election monitoring body that civil society has criticised as a tool of the president.

ESC commissioner Joyce Kazembe confirmed that there were military officers servicing in the election supervisory body but denied that Mugabe had appointed them.

“We are an independent body,” Kazembe said. “Never has the president given anybody a directive on how we should use state employees. We have military officers as members of the secretariat. Most of the secretariat members are drawn from the Public Service. The ESC has over the past five years deliberately tried to maintain permanent core staff.”

Sources said seconded military officers were presently preoccupied with the conduct of the forthcoming legislative poll.

“They are busy working on the forthcoming election from Hardwicke House (CIO offices along Samora Machel Avenue),” a source said.

“They have already finished scrutinising the voters’ roll and are now doing intelligence appreciation of the situation before the election.”

Inspection of the voters’ roll by the public ended three weeks ago. March 31 has been set as the date for the parliamentary election.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and Zanu PF managed to field candidates in all the 120 constituencies at the end of the nomination court last Friday.

The Independent heard that some of the military officers involved in supervising the electoral process were Major Sibindi from KG VI army headquarters and Major Kampira from the Presidential Guard.

“These guys have been working on elections since before the presidential poll in 2002. They were part of a large military network assigned to the presidential election,” the source said.

The Independent understands that Mugabe promoted Gambe to the position of ESC chair in consultation with the Judicial Services Commission. He has retained the rest of the commissioners who presided over the rigged 2000 and 2002 election. These are Kazembe, Erica Fungai Ndewere-Mususa and Tendayi Musekiwa Mberi.

There is still a vacancy for one commissioner following the elevation of Gambe. Mugabe is expected to appoint the other commissioner in consultation with the Speaker of the House, Emmerson Mnangagwa.

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