Arrests were uncalled for

YOU don’t need to be particularly clever, intelligent or a security expert to see what’s going on with regards to the arrest of our chief reporter Owen Gagare and myself this week at the behest of the forces of darkness for running a story based on what Housing minister Giles Mutsekwa had told us on record regarding his meetings with senior security service chiefs to discuss electoral issues and post-election political scenarios.

Editor’s Memo with Dumisani Mleya

Of course, there has been some hysterical official reactions to what Mutsekwa said even though the minister, a former soldier as well as defence and security secretary for the MDC-T, has held firm.

Although he has taken a lot of flak from angry military commanders and his own political party, Mutsekwa has stood firm in the face of adversity and remained calm.

But what is striking is the intensity of anger which the story provoked, triggering our arrest for merely doing our job.

Presidential spokesperson George Charamba was the first to react publicly, saying the story was a “major lie coming from a Rhodesian major”.

Mutsekwa however hit back, telling Charamba to keep away as he is not part of the army.

Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri said service chiefs had no time to engage “confused malcontents”.

Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) commander General Constantine Chiwenga was furious, describing Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai as a “sell-out” and “psychiatric patient who seems to be suffering from hallucinations”. Needless to say, this was all over the top.

While Charamba and Chihuri were temperate by the regime’s brazen standards, there was also a hint of threats in their statements.

This is very strange, yet not really difficult to understand.
But then, it also raises questions as to why they were so agitated. If we first go by what Mutsekwa said, the question is: were security chiefs’ talks with him authorised by President Robert Mugabe? If not, who did and what was happening then? If they were authorised, why the hysteria?

If Mutsekwa is lying, as they claim, why not just call his bluff and expose him for what he is? And why do the powers that be react as if this was the first time such a thing has happened here?

Ahead of the 2002 presidential election, didn’t former MDC MPs Job Sikhala, who was secretary for defence and security, and Tafadzwa Musekiwa hold talks with Air Marshal Perence Shiri?

In January 2003, didn’t Tsvangirai reveal he had held talks with retired Colonel Lionel Dyke who said he was acting on behalf of the late ZDF chief Vitalis Zvinavashe and Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa?

So what is the fuss all about and what is going on here? Well, the truth is, we simply don’t know. What we do know is Zimbabwe’s military as presently configured, a product of integration of former liberation forces and their adversaries, has always been involved in partisan politics since 1980.

As a result of the role of the military in politics and elections, the issue of security sector reform is looming large now.
During political transitions, especially after conflict, as was the case in 1980, the military is always a factor and how it is managed is a big issue.

That is why there is so much sensitivity because the next elections are critical and could produce outcomes in which the military’s reaction can be either a source of stability or instability.

So it’s not surprising journalists, digging around this issue and writing inconvenient reports, will naturally be targeted.
But our arrest was uncalled for.