Feeding off the military

HARARE - Violent vigilante groups such as Chipangano exist with the approval of the feared military establishment in the country, according to think tank group Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI).

In a research paper released yesterday titled Security Sector Factor in Zimbabwe’s Political and Electoral Affairs, ZDI says the security sector establishment which has continued to divide opinion in the hybrid government is still in charge despite the existence of a civilian authority.

President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai are in a power-sharing government that was formed at the behest of Sadc after an inconclusive poll in 2008.

But they have never agreed on the role of the security sector — whose bosses periodically threaten to undermine the civilian authority and plot a coup if Mugabe loses the upcoming election.

The power-sharing Global Political Agreement (GPA), which is the foundation of the coalition government, espouses security sector reforms.

But Mugabe and his Zanu PF party have refused to tinker with the establishment which is widely credited for propping up the former ruling party back into government after the March 2008 harmonised elections.

Pedzisai Ruhanya, the director of ZDI, says the security sector is in charge of the country and “has the capacity to control the use of violence and they have done that consistently to influence the political and electoral direction of the country for the past three decades and most significantly with the rise of organised and coordinated opposition and civic politics at the turn of the 21st century.”

ZDI says in its paper that Zanu PF has always relied on the bullying tactics of the army since the Gukurahundi days of the 1980s to force people into accepting Mugabe’s rule.

Although Mugabe has of late consistently preached peace, the continued existence of shadowy vigilante groups such as Chipangano raises questions on the sincerity of the octogenarian leader’s peace calls.

“In Zimbabwe, militia politics exist with the acquiescence of the State and the security establishment.

“The failure to implement security sector reforms has the potential to block possible democratic transition as the country prepares for the first election after the formation of the unity government,” said Ruhanya.

Mugabe is the commander-in-chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces and Ruhanya says he is still in control of the security sector and would rely on the establishment as the country plunges yet again into elections which many fear would be the fiercest fought since the country attained independence from Britain in 1980.

“The political situation is still too fragile to hold a credible election at the moment, let alone any time before practical security sector reforms.

“As it stands, through political and security leadership public pronouncements, Zanu PF retains full control of the security sector apparatus and this unquestionably raises justifiable fears that there can be a replicate of 2008 violence.

The MDC and some civic rights organisations claim that nearly 200 people were killed in the run-up to the presidential election runoff by either military sector members or Zanu PF militia groups.

“Zanu PF has unwaveringly refused to divorce itself from the security apparatus especially with the top leadership of the security forces.

“What we have now is a military, police service, State intelligence and other critical arms of the security sector that are so impartial in the manner that they carry out what they are obliged to do,” reads the report.

The report says as the country trudges yet again towards elections the security sector remains the greatest threat to a free and fair election.

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