ONE of Zimbabwe’s emerging think-tanks, Zimbabwe Democracy Institute’s (ZDI), this week released a report titled Zimbabwe Transition in Muddy Terrain: Political Economy under Military Capture.
The report, released on Wednesday, is an interrogation of the role of the security sector in political and economic affairs of the nation-state of Zimbabwe from a political economy theoretical lens. Its key areas of analysis are: the origins of security sector involvement in politico-economic affairs, the nature and role of this involvement, locating benefits and beneficiaries of this politicisation of the military and/or militarisation of the political economy and, challenges to and implications for the future of transition in Zimbabwe. And lastly, it sought to recommend possible solutions to the problems related to the current militarisation of the political economy landscape in Zimbabwe.
Key informants were purposively sampled from serving and retired contents of the security services — the defence forces, intelligence service, police service and war veterans. These respondents were chosen for their in-depth knowledge and peculiar historical background in the security sector.
Key informant interviews were then used as a primary data collection technique whereas desktop research was used to fill those gaps left unanswered through interviews. Two thematically codified research guides were prepared for the purpose of guiding researchers during investigations. After data was collected, thematic and content analyses were carried out leading to the production of this report. Find below the conclusion of the report:
The study concludes that the role of the security sector in political and economic affairs of Zimbabwe is as pervasive as Zanu PF is. This is the same role that Zanu PF serves. There is an intricate conflation of the security sector and Zanu PF to the extent that the security sector is Zanu PF and Zanu PF is the security sector itself.
This is not a new development, it can be traced to what we call a liberation struggle hangover — the party structure composed of securocrats who double as politicians. The study also concludes that the security sector has been and still is there to protect and pursue the interests of the securocrat party — Zanu PF. Their role can be easily understood as maintaining state capture by military interests and this role has been at the centre stage in the deterioration of the economy, political institutions and values since 1980.
It also should be noted that Zanu PF was captured long before independence in 1975 as evidenced by the Mgagao Declaration by soldiers who waged an intraparty coup d’état that installed Robert Mugabe. Since then, the security sector has been at the epicentre of government by operations that have maintained the quest to capture the state entirely and subdue all threats along the way. The liberation struggle has been used as the basis of the securocratic state and patronage used to recruit and/or shut-out citizens in key economic and political participation zones.
The capture of Zanu in 1975, the statecraft in 1980, PF Zapu in 1987, the land in 2000, diamond fields in 2006 and MDCs in 2009 are among the most important examples of the securocratic political gamesmanship in Zimbabwe. It is this kind of securoctrat gamesmanship that has been a major force used to defy the winds of change and capture politico-economic transition.
The nature of security sector capture and imposition of a securocratic state in Zimbabwe is tactfully hewed through effective capture of four basic state institutions — the state media, electoral processes, judiciary and the legislature; economy and Zanu PF. The capture of statecraft by military interests has been reflected in the dominance of the security sector in key economic zones of the state. The securocrat patronage network has been very active in this area for political reasons.
The three key economic zones of Zimbabwe — political appointments and/or employment, mining sector and agriculture — have been captured and used to make Zanu PF membership a strategic economic opportunity. This has led to the long stay in power of Zanu PF and the erosion of the economy due to corruption and bad management of resources by the securocratic state. It is through these captured institutions that securocratic rule has been made pervasive throughout the country and perpetual. The securocratic system has made sure that these institutions are directly controlled through security sector members being given leadership and decision-making positions or indirectly through appointment of conduits of the security sector to those positions.
The division within Zanu PF has also divided the securocratic state network, thereby dividing the economy attached to it. The halting of business of diamond mining companies has been perceived as an economic coup d’état by G40 since those companies are dominated by Team Lacoste military bosses. This has been the case with agriculture; it has been used as an area of political gamesmanship and calculations at the expense of poor Zimbabweans who are generally food insecure and impoverished.
However, there is a complex but interesting twist in the political tweaking of the current security sector and this has a lot to tell about the future of the securocratic state. There is no common goal, perspective nor preference within the security sector concerning the continued military capture of the political economy and future transition of power in Zanu PF. The sample generally (though particularly those form Matabeleland regions and metropolitan provinces) highlighted their dissatisfaction with the securocratic state. This was more pronounced in the 18 to 50 years age group and hence need for reform as respondents cited serious economic mismanagement and bad governance related to this kind of state. The study also revealed that Mnangagwa is a preferable successor of Mugabe because of his background.
Putting aside those who opted for none of the two presidential contenders; Mnangagwa was pronounced as the preferable option compared to Grace Mugabe among the 31-50+ years age group while the opposite was pronounced in the 18-30 years age group. This trend was more pronounced across the 10 provinces of the country. This implies that, among the two factions in Zanu PF, Grace Mugabe is seen as the better option among the youth whereas Mnangagwa is preferred by the elderly and middle ages.
Another conclusion is that, the fact that Mnangagwa seems an absolute choice in the 51+ age group explains the support of Mnangagwa by the security sector leadership and war veterans. The youth are not yet won into this camp while they are majorities in the security sector and the foreseeable leadership in the next decade. What this means is that there is a youthful G40 within the security sector composed of young persons who have not benefited from the loot and have no significant stake in the securocratic state. This is a group that can easily be involved in violence compared to asset-owning groups (31-51+years) that would prefer peace to avoid disruption of economic interests. However, majorities in the sampled youth and middle age groups preferred none of the two. This generally speaks of the uncertainties ahead in Zimbabwe.
On transition in general, the sample showed an agreement in the need for politico-economic transition and democracy was the most preferred political order. However, there were divergences regarding the source of that democracy and transition. The order of preference of the source of democracy and transition were as follows: Zanu PF driven, from outside Zanu PF and from anywhere whether Zanu PF or not.
But a resounding majority in the 51+years age group preferred transition led by Zanu PF; the majority of 31—50 years age group preferred transition from anywhere in Zimbabwe or from outside Zanu PF as a second alternative whereas, the 18—30 years age group preferred transition from outside Zanu PF followed by anywhere in Zimbabwe as a second alternative.
Generally, this study concludes that transition in Zimbabwe will be meaningful the day it will mean transition from a securocratic state to a civilian state. Until and unless this is realised, all efforts will be a waste of time unless such efforts enhance achievement of vested interests of the security sector. Divergences within the securocratic state present interesting early symptoms of the system’s self-destruction and an opportunity for transition.
At the centre of the securocratic state challenge in Zimbabwe are deepening economic challenges owing to general uncertainties on what will happen in the post-Mugabe era. The involvement of the security sector in civilian affairs and the subsequent lack of homogeneity among the securocrats pose a serious threat to peace and does not inspire confidence in would-be investors to invest in Zimbabwe. The restoration of certainty and resolution of the infighting associated with the succession question within the ruling party will go a long way in mobilizing domestic and foreign investors.
The Government of Zimbabwe must set up an independent complaints mechanism in line with Section 210 of the constitution in order to facilitate holding members of the security services to account.
An unequivocal demilitarisation of all state institutions and professional conduct of the security services in line with the Constitution of Zimbabwe
Government should reform and/or transform national institutions (the judiciary, legislature, electoral system and the media) to get rid of the security sector component in public institutions that has caused intolerance, corruption, theft and violence, and loss of confidence in those institutions. This must ensure that they are populated with competent personnel who execute their mandate in a professional and impartial manner.
The opposition should come up with a real and formidable alternative politico-economic appeal that can attract security sector loyalties and trust. This might help in breaking down the securocratic state network and moving forward the stark transition abandoned in 2013.
The Zanu PF government has, beyond reasonable doubt, failed to manage the economy of Zimbabwe. The current cash shortages, high rate of informalisation of the economy, and inflation attest to this fact. It is the general citizenry that suffers the most. As such, there is need for the Zanu PF government to abandon its costly securocratic state patronage network to enhance accountability, transparency and fight corruption. Reforming the indigenisation and economic empowerment policy to mutually profitable gains between investors and the state is inexorable. Government’s response to the growth of the informal sector must turn from the current ambivalence and confrontation to regularization and support.
Zanu PF should address the succession battle to avert spillover to the security sector which might create instability, mutiny and armed confrontation and the negative effects of uncertainties on the national economy.
The opposition should step-up its coalition process and finalise on its leadership stalemate before it is too late. This is the kind of political alternative needed to win security sector loyalties in the event of a breakdown in the current securocratic state.
The opposition should take its coalition at the top to the grassroots on time to avoid confusions in the coming election.
Sadc and AU should put in place mechanisms of threat detection and pre-emptive measures through their early warning mechanism to respond to instability in Zimbabwe and putting in place mechanism to avert disaster and effects thereof.
Implications for further study
This study was a snap survey of the views of the security sector on its involvement in politico-economic affairs of Zimbabwe and preferred transition in the future given the uncertainties and competitions within Zanu PF. It is a reflection of reality and a call for a broad based study into these dynamics and contradictions so that the future of transition in Zimbabwe is given better nesting.