Spectre of stolen election alive

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AS part of its well-orchestrated ploy to forestall implementation of Global Political Agreement  reforms while maintaining its electoral advantage, Zanu PF and security sector chiefs have been making increasingly strident statements resisting security sector reforms.

Editor’s Memo with Stewart Chabwinja

Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and his State Security counterpart Sydney Sekeramayi have lately been particularly vocal in this regard, as has been the state media churning out reportage packaged to discredit the reform calls as a foreign-sponsored agenda.

These demands for professionalism in the security sector were this week presented in the state media as a grand plot by the MDC-T to fire military commanders and outsource the country’s security to the West should the party win elections.

In his latest pronouncements Sekeramayi claimed Zimbabwe’s security was under threat from the West relentlessly pursuing an “illegal regime change” agenda, in the hope of installing a puppet government. This shrill sentiment has become Zanu PF’s refrain as high-stakes elections beckon.

The reason for the campaign which dovetails with Zanu PF’s mounting resistance to agreed-to reforms is easy to pin down. The defence forces have been Zanu PF’s pillar of strength and electoral trump card since Independence.

In fact President Robert Mugabe is indebted to the security sector’s rescue mission through a bloody campaign in the June 2008 presidential poll run-off which ensured his continued reign after an initial historic defeat by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (MDC-T).

Zanu PF even claims the realignment of the security sector is not part of the Global Political agreement which sired the unity government. Contrary to this dissembling line, the GPA in Article XIII is clear that “state organs and institutions do not belong to any political party and should be impartial in the discharge of their duties”.

It further states in article XIII (b) and (c) “. . . all state organs and institutions (should) strictly observe the principles of the rule of law and remain non-partisan and impartial. Laws and regulations governing state organs and institutions are strictly adhered to and those violating them be penalised without fear or favour…”

It is thus evident that by making public statements backing Zanu PF and campaigning for it, commanders are in breach of the laws of the land and should be “penalised without fear or favour”.

The defiance to security sector realignment is clearly intended to radicalise politics and possibly unleash another bout of electoral violence –– a staple for Zimbabwean polls. This resistance is epitomised by the failure, attributable to Zanu PF, of the National Security Council –– a GPA creature –– to meet and fulfil its obligation of reviewing policies on security, defence, law and order and recommending or directing appropriate action.

The council should, among others, comprise the president as chairperson, vice-presidents, prime minister and his deputies and ministers responsible for finance, defence forces and the police force.

A frustrated Tsvangirai has accused the service chiefs of masterminding a “silent coup”, claiming he doubted Mugabe was still in charge of the country, but this is rather simplistic as the two clearly enjoy a symbiotic relationship.

The last thing Zimbabwe needs is another stolen election, but such a spectre remains alive if the security sector is not reined in and told to desist from playing a commissariat role for Zanu PF, thus poisoning the electoral environment before and after elections.

Senior army commanders, the likes of Major-Generals Douglas Nyikayaramba, Martin Chedondo and Trust Mugoba, have thrust the military into the spotlight by insisting as “patriots” they are prepared to fight to defend Mugabe and Zanu PF to safeguard the gains of Independence.

What they will not concede is the motive is much more mundane: they fear losing their assets and privileges if Mugabe is defeated as Zimbabwean military chiefs are among the richest in the region, living lavish lifestyles under a patronage system while the majority wallows in abject poverty.

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