By Tonderai Kwenda
HARARE – Principals in the inclusive government meet tomorrow for a National Security Council (NSC) meeting that will discuss among other issues the fate of police commissioner-general, Augustine Chihuri, whose term of office expired on Tuesday.
Chihuri’s continued stay as police boss after the expiry of his contract has become a thorny issue within the coalition government. President Robert Mugabe on one side and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai are set to clash head on over the fate of Chihuri.
Welshman Ncube, the leader of the smaller MDC faction is also expected to side with Tsvangirai. Ncube or a representative from his party attends the Security Council meeting as a negotiator to the Global Political Agreement (GPA).
Chihuri’s future is likely to take centre stage among other hot issues such as security sector reform and increased reports of militarisation of political process as well as reported heightened presence of soldiers in parts of rural Zimbabwe.
Other security sector commanders are set to attend the National Security Council (NSC) meeting as well as security ministers and negotiators to the GPA. But it is Chihuri’s future that could hog the limelight, high level sources say. Tsvangirai and Ncube have already set the tone for the meeting by declaring that Chihuri is now out of a job following the expiry of his contract.
Chihuri’s term of office expired on Tuesday, with Tsvangirai and other coalition government partners immediately saying the country’s top cop was staying onto the post illegitimately with effect from yesterday.
To compound matters, the Police Service Commission (PSC) that handles Chihuri’s contract is also out of work after its term ended last December. Coalition government partners are yet to agree on a new PSC board and again the issue is likely to come up for discussion at tomorrow’s meeting, sources say.
Tsvangirai’s MDC, which is against Chihuri’s continued stay in office, says Zimbabwe effectively has no police commissioner as from midnight Tuesday.
“As far as we are concerned this country does not have a police commissioner as from midnight (Tuesday) because Chihuri’s term of office is expiring,” Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Tamborinyoka told the Daily News on Tuesday.
“As far as the prime minister is concerned, Chihuri is no longer the police commissioner because his term expires tonight. This simply means that we will wait for Mugabe to consult the PM for a replacement,” Tamborinyoka said.
According to Section 6 of the Police Act, the commissioner-general’s term of office expires at the end of four years.
Thereafter, the commissioner-general may be re-appointed by extending his period of service for 12 months at the end of which in the absence of the letter of appointment extending his services, he ceases to be commissioner-general of police.
Despite the latest clamour by the MDC for a change of faces in the upper echelons of the country’s security forces, Mugabe’s spokesperson, George Charamba recently told the Daily News that the call by the two MDC formations to have Chihuri out of office was a ploy for security sector reform.
“The defence forces are not subject to inter-party negotiations,” said Charamba.
“There is nowhere in the power sharing Global Political Agreement or any clause of the constitution where it says the re-appointment of security commanders is going to be the outcome of the inter-party negotiations. This is the prerogative of the commander-in-chief,” said Charamba.
The NSC, which is supposed to meet once every month, has not been meeting regularly partly due to Tsvangirai and Mugabe’s irregular working schedules. The meeting comes as Sadc executive secretary Tomaz Salamao is heading to Zimbabwe to assess the progress of the GPA and whether the situation permits for elections this year as demanded by Mugabe.
Tsvangirai has in the past accused security chiefs of engineering a silent coup and driving an orgy of violence on behalf of his coalition partner Mugabe. The MDC has not hidden the fact that it wants the security chiefs to be retired from service.
The MDC’s position at the ongoing Sadc supervised talks on a roadmap to the country’s elections specifically makes demands that the Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces Constantine Chiwenga and Chihuri must be retired.
These demands, coupled with a raft of other displeasures such as the militarisation of the country’s politics, are likely to be put on the table.
NSC also includes security sector cabinet members, ex-officio members such as Commander of the Defence Forces, army and Air Force, Commissioner General of Police, Prisons, Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet and Director General of the Department of State Security. Daily News
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