Generals avoid PM

HARARE - Security commanders have not sat down with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe in the National Security Council (NSC) in over four months, with the veteran leader not calling any meetings since May.

Under the NSC Act, the Council should meet every month, with security commanders congregating with key leaders of the inclusive government to receive and consider national security reports and give direction
on how the country's security forces work.

The NSC meeting can only be constituted at the whim of the President, whose failure to convene the assembly in over four months has been blasted by his coalition partners as a blatant violation of a central provision of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) that requires the convening of monthly meetings.

Mugabe has so far foiled four NSC meetings amid reports securocrats were reluctant to recognise the leadership of the PM, who has made his position clear that he is determined to institute wide-sweeping
security sector reforms to turn Zimbabwe's security forces into a professional service force.

The NSC consists of Mugabe as chairperson, his two deputies Joice Mujuru and John Nkomo, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputies Arthur Mutambara and Thokozani Khupe; Industry and Commerce minister Welshman Ncube, Finance Minister Tendai Biti, Defence Minister Emerson Mnangagwa, and the two Home Affairs ministers Theresa Makone and Kembo Mohadi.

While the NSC has stopped meeting, senior government officials told the Daily News yesterday the generals continue to meet Mugabe privately under the purview of the disbanded Joint Operations Command (JOC).

The NSC was supposed to replace the shadowy JOC — a committee of securocrats said by analysts to be the real power behind Mugabe.

Army spokesperson Colonel Overson Mugwisi declined to comment over the phone, and requested written questions, which he had not responded to at the time of going to print.

The NSC has intermittently met during the first Friday of every month.

That was until May.

Previous meetings of the NSC have been fraught with difficulties, but reformers have kept pressing for the support of army generals to the civilian administration, contending it was absolutely vital for the
troubled southern African country's long-term peace and stability.

Jameson Timba, the minister of State in the PM’s office, told the Daily News: “To the best of my knowledge, it has not sat in a long time.”

Asked why all of a sudden the security think-tank was no longer sitting, Timba retorted: “I do not have any reasons why.”

Ncube, who is also leader of the smaller MDC by legislative representation, said Mugabe, as the chairman of the NSC, was supposed to call the meetings, but has suspended them for unknown reasons.

No comment was available from Mugabe as he is away in New York attending the United National General Assembly together with his team of spin doctors.

But Ncube said: “Obviously it’s an important institution of government, which institution must meet as regularly as possible to transact government business. It has not met for a long time.

Security issues are not being dealt with within the framework of the inclusive government.”

Officials say the refusal by Mugabe to call NSC meetings represents both open defiance of the GPA and a determined effort to display contempt for Tsvangirai.

Top government officials say there has been fierce resistance to the formal meetings of the NSC among the service chiefs, who see the establishment of the new security organ as a threat to their hitherto
unchallenged power.

There are mounting fears Mugabe is meeting his military commanders under the ambit of JOC, which he retained, albeit behind the scenes.

The JOC, a security think-tank comprising heads of the army, police, prisons, airforce and the intelligence arm, the CIO, has publicly warned that they would do anything to stop Tsvangirai from taking
power in the forthcoming election.

Tsvangirai, who had pushed for regular monthly meetings with a military crucial to Mugabe's hold on power, has been snubbed by the generals who have maintained their vow not to work with him to consider national security and foreign policy matters.

In the meantime, Zanu PF has staunchly rebuffed calls to dismantle or reform the JOC which the 88-year-old leader’s party insists should remain in existence to oversee operational matters while the NSC
handles matters of policy.

Critics claim the JOC, which Mugabe has refused to dismantle, is running a parallel government.

The command is now making policy without Tsvangirai and Ncube's knowledge, and highly placed sources claim it is also overseeing Mugabe's re-election strategy.

With Zimbabwe emerging from almost three decades of iron-fisted rule, reformers in the inclusive government are seeking to break with the past by restructuring the country's security forces and subjecting them to elected civilian control. - Gift Phiri

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