HomePoliticsWe are watching you, army chiefs told

We are watching you, army chiefs told

THE MDC-T would be closely monitoring the behaviour of securocrats in the run-up to the next elections and during the subsequent transfer of power should the party win the polls, with a view to determining how to deal with elements implicated in past human rights violations.

Report by Owen Gagare

It has also emerged Sadc, the guarantors of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) — precursor to Zimbabwe’s unity government — is also closely monitoring the military’s behaviour and recently reminded securocrats to remain professional and not meddle in politics.

The message was delivered on the sidelines of the South Africa/Zimbabwe 7th Joint Permanent Commission on Defence and Security held at the Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town from November 21-23 last year.

State Security minister Sydney Sekeramayi led the Zimbabwean delegation which included Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, director-general of the Central Intelligence Organisation Happyton Bonyongwe, and top military officers.

Although the official communiqué said the commission “noted that the political and security situation in the two countries remains stable” and “commended the progress made in the implementation of the GPA”, the South Africans are keen on full implementation of the GPA and are wary of statements made by senior military officers last year, among them Major-Generals Douglas Nyikayaramba, Trust Mugoba and Martin Chedondo, who openly declared their loyalty to Zanu PF.
South Africa urged its Zimbabwean counterparts to be professional and not political.

“They were told not to interfere with the electoral process and ensure smooth transfer of power should Zanu PF lose,” said a source. “Apart from the fact that (President Jacob) Zuma is mediating in Zimbabwe, South Africa has always been concerned about the security situation in the country because any instability has a huge effect across the Limpopo,” the source said.

Millions of Zimbabweans crossed into South Africa, among other neighbouring and regional countries, most of them illegally, at the height of Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown.

The military has had a hands-on approach in Zimbabwean politics and came to the aid of President Robert Mugabe after he lost the first round of the presidential poll to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in March 2008. It embarked on a bloody campaign resulting in Tsvangirai pulling out of the June 27 run-off citing widespread violence and intimidation of his supporters, among other glaring irregularities.

Statements by generals and the involvement of the military in Zanu PF activities have given credence to fears that the security forces may once again play a major role in the upcoming elections.

The military has also been involved in several other high-profile human rights violations, including the Gukurahundi massacres in Matabeleland and the Midlands in the early 1980s, but the perpetrators have never been brought to justice.

The top military brass, which has accumulated great wealth, is keen to keep Mugabe in power and has been involved in the Zanu PF restructuring exercise, especially in Manicaland which has been identified as a key province for the party to win. There are also reports of the military already campaigning for Zanu PF in several provinces.

A senior and influential MDC-T official told the Zimbabwe Independent that while Tsvangirai recently told this paper he would balance the fears of those implicated in human rights abuses with the interests of those crying out for justice as well as the need for stability, the behaviour of the military during the election period would be key in determining the approach the party would take.

“Obviously, if they embark on a violent campaign like they did in 2008 and if they prevent the smooth transfer of power in the event we win the election, we will be forced to be heavy-handed with them as well,” said the MDC-T official.

“So the ball is in their court really and they know this. You will recall that in the run-up to the 2002 presidential elections the generals issued a statement saying the Office of the President is a straitjacket and they will never salute anyone without war credentials. It is clear that some of them still harbour those feelings, so we will be watching them closely.”

MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora confirmed the next election would be crucial in determining his party’s approach if it wins the polls.

“We want to have a good relationship with the armed forces,” said Mwonzora. “We want a relationship predicated upon mutual respect. They must respect our right to exist and organise. We are Zimbabweans and have every right to rule the country.

“They must be bound by the constitution … so how they behave in the forthcoming elections will indeed determine how we treat them.”
Another MDC-T official said over the years his party had been engaging the securocrats through the late Dr Tichaona Mudzingwa, who had links with many senior military, intelligence and police officers.

The official said some of the officers had softened their stance although quite a number remained “stubborn”.

He, however, said the party was hopeful the military would not stop his party from assuming power given Sadc’s keen interest in the election and that the feelings of some of the top commanders were not shared by the rank and file.

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