No military reforms — Mnangagwa

HARARE - Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa has wadded into a political storm with his stonewalling comments on military reforms.

Addressing senior military personnel this week Mnangagwa, a potential successor to President Robert Mugabe, declared there will not be any security sector reforms as long as he remains in government leadership.

“The current government is anxious to reform you and anxious for security sector reforms. They do not want to have a defence force which is knowledgeable, focused and revolutionary. We are against it,” the defence minister is quoted as saying.

While Mnangagwa was taking a hard-line stance on security sector reforms, Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo seemed not entirely against military re-alignment but not before elections.

“I suppose one can safely say the issue of security reform is not one issue that should be discussed now because we are seized with the Constitution-making process and the Referendum. Any reforms that may take place perhaps can come after the elections, we cannot engage the military now,” Gumbo said.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said his party is not worried about the utterances coming from Mnangagwa.

“As far as we are concerned, security sector reforms will happen. The new constitution is clear on what behaviour is expected of our military establishment and that is what will happen,” Mwonzora said.

Former Zanu PF politburo member and now opposition Mavambo/Kusile Dawn leader Simba Makoni said Mnangagwa had a warped understanding of what security sector reform is.

“If that is his understanding of military reforms, then he needs to school himself. The clamour for security sector reform has never been about change of government but to make sure our military personnel are professional in the discharge of their duties,” Makoni said.

“I have not heard Morgan Tsvangirai (Prime Minister) or anybody in the opposition movement agitating for an ignorant defence force. Rather it is Zanu PF that has turned a national institution and a venerated one at that into a partisan force that panders to a political party’s whims.

“If Mnangagwa wants to maintain the status quo then he is seriously misdirected. We want a non-partisan and apolitical force that respects democratic ideals and norms,” said Makoni.

Although Industry minister Welshman Ncube was not available for comment, his party deputy secretary-general Moses Mzila Ndlovu last week told the Daily News security sector and media reforms remain a grey area that needs to be dealt with before the expiry of the term of the current Parliament.

Known as Ngwena/Crocodile in political circles, the defence minister is hedging his chances of landing the party and country’s biggest political post on support from the army, his rivals say.

Calls for security sector reform have reached a crescendo particularly after the 2008 bloodbath in the presidential election run-off in which the military was fingered as having been the power behind murders and disappearances that forced Tsvangirai to pull out at the eleventh hour.

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