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Military coup unlikely in Zimbabwe

A MILITARY coup in Zimbabwe is unlikely due to fear of regional and international backlash as well as uncertainty about the reaction by the generality of members of the defence forces, the International Crisis Group (ICG) has said.

Brian Chitemba

In a report titled Zimbabwe: Election Scenarios, the ICG, a Brussels-based non-profit research group, warns that although the military was unlikely to grab power, the securocrats may seek to influence the outcome of elections expected later this year.

“A military takeover is unlikely, not least because of uncertainty about the political allegiance of the rank and file (of the army), probable regional censure and international isolation,” the ICG says.

“However, allegations of the army’s bias and complicity in human rights violations raise concerns it may seek to influence the election outcome. It may also present itself as a stabilising force if inter and intra-party relations deteriorate further.”

The report adds: “2013 is a decisive year. Elections in a context of acute divisions are unlikely to provide stability. There is a growing sense that the best way forward is further power sharing, though this is only helpful if objectives are established and widely accepted.

“To note that Zimbabwe is less violent now than in 2008 means little before the campaign – it is the competition for power that generates violence. That the elections are likely to be tense and see some violence and intimidation is clear; what is not yet clear is the nature of the violence, its extent and the response it will generate.”

The ICG recommends that Global Political Agreement (GPA) principals should address the politicisation of security services through holding regular National Security Council meetings to iron out disagreements and reach a consensus prior to the polls.

The principals should also ensure security service chiefs making partisan public statements are censured or sanctioned, while Sadc needs to engage them not to interfere with the political process. According to ICG, the military requires an electoral code of conduct that can be endorsed by Sadc heads of state.

The grave concern over the military’s involvement in political processes comes against a backdrop of partisan statements by senior military commanders, including Zimbabwe Defence Forces boss General Constantine Chiwenga, Major-General Martin Chedondo, Major-General Trust Mugoba and Major-General Douglas Nyikayaramba, as well as Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri, making it clear they will not accept Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai even if he wins elections against President Robert Mugabe.

Sources say the military commanders, who are under pressure to reform, will almost certainly make further partisan remarks going forward, including during this coming weekend.

The ICG noted security chiefs loyal to Zanu PF were likely to seek to influence the election outcome since some of them have demanded more political representation and played a role in the bloody June 2008 presidential poll runoff which secured Mugabe’s continued three-decade grip on power. The 2008 elections reign of terror against Zanu PF political opponents left almost 200 people dead.

“The Zimbabwe Republic Police has demonstrated some professionalism, but its leaders openly support Zanu PF and frequently harass Movement for Democratic Change formations and civil society, which the MDC-T has been powerless to prevent,” says the ICG.

Free and fair elections could only be held if critical reforms were implemented although Zanu PF was likely to resist further changes that may weaken its grip on power, it says.

Apart from reforming the security sector, institutional reforms are required at crucial organisations such as the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (Jomic), which are reeling from limited funding and infiltration by state security agents, it said.

Last week Tsvangirai was on a whirlwind tour of the continent to lobby Sadc and other African leaders to push Mugabe to adopt reforms before elections to plug any loopholes for rigging and use of violence to coerce the electorate to rally behind Zanu PF.

Mugabe and his loyalists are pushing for elections on June 29 with or without reforms, but Sadc is frustrating their plans.

“Sadc’s priority is “containment” even more than reforms to maintain stability. “This objective remains vague, but the organisation must consolidate its promotion of reforms in compliance with its election guidelines,” reads the ICG report.

“Reforms require monitoring, but Jomic’s capacity for this is limited and Zanu PF’s resistance to extending its mandate to focus on elections has frustrated Sadc. The regional bloc should establish an office in Harare that complements Jomic but also allows it to independently liaise with the government.”

Sadc, the ICG notes, has to convene a heads of state summit on Zimbabwe that emphasises election roadmap compliance and establishes a liaison office in Harare to monitor and evaluate election preparations, while facilitating a prompt response when necessary.

Another election scenario, according to ICG, is that if the stalemate over reforms persists, the polls may be rescheduled. Both MDC-T and Zanu PF, which are facing serious intra-party ructions, may support elections postponement.


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