Several high-ranking members of the security sector want to challenge Zanu PF bigwigs whom they accuse of destroying the party by imposing non-performing candidates during elections. Information to hand shows some security forces are already on the ground campaigning for themselves and Zanu PF as well.
The move has brought renewed focus on the controversial civil-military relations in Zimbabwe, given the often-violent political intervention by the security forces in civilian affairs ahead of the next polls.
However, analysts believe the interest shown by securocrats in Zanu PF affairs is not surprising given the close link between the party and members of the security agencies which dates back to the days of the liberation struggle.
In fact, the security sector has taken advantage of the historical links to gradually increase its influence in Zanu PF and civil matters as a result of President Robert Mugabe’s reliance on them whenever he is faced with serious political and even bureaucratic challenges, including running ministries and parastatals.
At the height of the country’s economic problems, security forces were deployed to head underperforming parastatals as well as fill in board positions. This almost formalised the take-over of civilian administrative duties by the military and other security arms.
Security analyst Martin Rupiya examined the government’s increasing reliance on the military to address socio-political problems between 1999 and 2002 and the risk of the military consolidating its influence in an article entitled Civil-Military relations in Zimbabwe: Is there a threat?
Rupiya said those in favour of the military approach argue the army is useful to civilian political leaders as it presents obvious objectives, a clear time-line in which to attain them as well as an inherent efficiency that is normally missing from other approaches.
“However, herein lies the nemesis of relying on this approach: it is difficult to devise an early exit strategy,” Rupiya wrote. “In practice, once in politics they tend to expand and consolidate their position, effectively undermining the careful balance that is required for a stable civil-military relations framework.”
Rupiya said the close relations between the military and political leaders dating back to the liberation struggle pose a challenge of where to draw the line between civilian and armed forces’ affairs.
“In Zimbabwe, the challenge will be how to fashion a useful role for the military within society in the context of the close liberation movement model, broadening this to become national and less threatening to other members of society,” he said.
True to Rupiya’s assessment, the security sector has consolidated its position to such an extent that it is now directly involved in determining the country’s political course through the Joint Operations Command (Joc), a grouping of security service chiefs.
Joc, which played a critical role to keep Zanu PF in power since 2000, is behind Mugabe’s current push for elections this year, with or without a new constitution.
Security personnel also have a grip on key positions in Zanu PF’s commissariat department, with retired Air Vice-Marshal Henry Muchena and former CIO director (internal) Sydney Nyanhongo running it.
Rupiya said although the security sector had been involved in politics since the pre-Independence era, the “no-holds barred” involvement began after the near defeat of Zanu PF in the June 2000 elections, followed by the bruising campaign for the presidential election in March 2002.
Major-General Douglas Nyikayaramba, recently promoted, was even deployed to the electoral commission to become chief elections officer at the time even though he was still serving.
Sobusa Gula-Ndebele, a former colonel in the army, chaired the Electoral Supervisory Commission which ran the 2002 presidential election.
Nyikayaramba is one of those army commanders who have vowed to defend Mugabe to the hilt and resist or resign if anyone takes over.
A few months before the presidential poll in 2002, the service chiefs publicly declared they would not salute a president without “liberation credentials”. This was interpreted as a veiled coup threat if Mugabe lost. They repeated this as individuals in 2008.
A recent report by the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition questioned the appointment of military personnel to electoral institutions such as the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) and the Delimitation Commission (DC).
In 2004 Mugabe appointed a four-member Delimitation Commission chaired by former judge advocate responsible for military tribunals in the Zimbabwe National Army and High Court Justice George Chiweshe. In 2008, Chiweshe was appointed to chair the Zec which presided over the discredited June 27 presidential election run-off. He was later promoted to Judge President.
Zec delayed the announcement of presidential poll results by more than six weeks amid widespread speculation this was used to manipulate figures in Mugabe’s favour. Zanu PF was defeated by the MDC-T in 2008 parliamentary polls.
“After the formation of the inclusive government, the Zec was reconstituted with respected judge Justice Simpson Mtambanengwe as its chairperson. However, serious concerns remain that Zec secretariat comprises military personnel whose independence is questionable,” according to Rupiya.
The crisis coalition group said the military’s meddling in politics had become toxic as evidenced by the June 2008 presidnetial election run-off where security personnel stepped in to rescue Mugabe who had lost the first round to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. “The military effectively overthrew the electoral process and unleashed violence and intimidation on a wide scale,” said the coalition.
“The military emerged at this time as the bedrock and political commissar of Zanu PF. Following a defeat at the polls by the MDC in March 2008, Zanu-PF’s evaluation noted the obvious — that the party structures were virtually non-existent and lacked capacity to mount an effective campaign, hence the strategy to turn to the military for a campaign of coercion.”
Political analyst Eldred Masunungure says the security sector has maintained a symbiotic relationship with Zanu PF. “They are just demanding their pound of flesh,” he said. “These are people — most of whom are war veterans and were historically an integral part of Zanu PF. Psychologically they are Zanu PF. They regard themselves as Zanu PF. They regard their organisations as secondary organisations and Zanu PF as their mother organisation,” he said.