PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has tacitly agreed to summon service chiefs over their recent inflammatory political statements in which they threw afresh their weight behind Zanu PF, as pressure mounts on him to rein in military commanders ahead of watershed elections later this year.
Faith Zaba/Brian Chitemba
Mugabe is under pressure from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, a victim of vicious military verbal attacks, and Sadc leaders to restrain security service chiefs from interfering in politics and elections.
Tsvangirai, who recently raised the issue with Sadc and other African leaders during a diplomatic trip across the continent, escalated the matter with Mugabe during their Monday meetings.
The MDC-T also wrote to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chairperson Rita Makarau and the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (Jomic), complaining about the abrasive and meddlesome conduct of military commanders. They copied the letter to Sadc facilitator in Zimbabwe, South African President Jacob Zuma.
Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General Constantine Chiwenga, Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri, and prison services boss Paradzai Zimondi, as well as other high-ranking army officers including Major-Generals Douglas Nyikayaramba, Martin Chedondo and Trust Mugoba, have vowed Tsvangirai would never rule even if he wins next elections.
Chiwenga shocked the nation recently when he described Tsvangirai as a “sell-out” and “psychiatric patient” suffering from “hallucinations”. He was reacting to reports that MDC-T defence and security secretary Giles Mutsekwa had met him and other commanders to discuss elections and transitional issues.
Sources said after balking on the issue, Tsvangirai on Monday confronted Mugabe, demanding he must rein in service chiefs whose statements are in violation of the constitution and laws, while they also undermined peace and stability.
A top government official told Zimbabwe Independent this week Mugabe agreed with Tsvangirai that service chiefs had overstepped the line and were destabilising the political and electoral environment ahead of make-or-break elections.
“The prime minister raised the issue at the Monday meeting with Mugabe. The president conceded the utterances by some of the commanders undermine the prospects of free and fair elections,” said the official. “Mugabe also expressed concern over the service chiefs’ conduct and said he would soon summon them to discuss the issue.”
Presidential spokesperson George Charamba said he had no details of the principals’ meeting as he does not attend their gatherings. “I don’t attend Monday meetings because they are principals’ meetings and I am not one. I wasn’t there,” he said.
After the Monday meeting, the MDC-T intensified pressure on Mugabe and the military commanders by writing to Zec and Jomic demanding they should craft a code of conduct for security forces before the elections to ensure they behaved in accordance with the constitution and laws governing their activities.
“By way of suggestion, we would propose that Zec seriously considers crafting a code of conduct for members of the security services in elections, which would regulate the conduct of the security services in a manner that is consistent with the new constitution,” reads the letter copied to Zuma.
The MDC-T said the threats by the generals since 2002 undermined the credibility and legitimacy of election outcomes.
“We note that the new constitution makes provisions to ensure that members of the security services conduct themselves in a professional and politically non-partisan manner,” the letter reads.
“Section 208 prohibits both the institutions and individuals in the security services from acting in a partisan manner; furthering the interests of any political party or cause; violating the fundamental rights or freedoms of any person.”
The MDC-T further complained utterances by the army chiefs poisoned the electoral environment, while undermining its own interests and furthering Zanu PF’s political agenda.
Sadc and the African Union, the MDC-T added, would be concerned about the behaviour of partisan army commanders. “As candidates and participants in the electoral process, we are appalled by this conduct.
“We do not wish to participate in a sham electoral process whose outcome is already predetermined,” the party said in the letter.
“Finally, it is our expectation that Zec will pursuant to its constitutional obligations, carefully consider our concerns, as expressed in this communication and take appropriate action to protect the electoral environment and consequently, the credibility and legitimacy of the electoral process.
“Inaction or silence in the face of conduct which plainly does serious harm to the credibility of the elections might otherwise be interpreted as condoning such conduct.”
Tsvangirai this week described the security chiefs’ remarks as tantamount to a “coup” since the uniformed forces were threatening to subvert the will of the people.
Since 1980, the military has increasingly played a key role in politics and electoral processes. The military was influential in Mugabe’s disputed victories in 2002 and 2008, something they want to repeat in the next elections.