By Owen Gagare
SADC leaders are reportedly disturbed by Zimbabwe state security service chiefs’ brazen meddling in local politics ahead of watershed elections and are pressing the facilitator, South African President Jacob Zuma, to tackle the issue at his next meeting with GPA principals.
This means pressure is mounting on military commanders to stop interfering in politics and electoral issues ahead of crucial polls. Security forces have been propping up President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF, mainly since 2000 following the emergence of the MDC. They were largely central to elections in 2002 and 2008. They are currently on the campaign trail.
Informed diplomatic sources say in the aftermath of the regional summit in Luanda, Angola, where Sadc leaders resolved that Zimbabwe’s GPA parties must implement the GPA, associated reforms and the roadmap, the role of the military in elections has come into sharp focus. Some of the principals have been in touch with Sadc leaders last week over the issue, sources said.
Sources say regional leaders are anxious to ensure the next polls in Zimbabwe are held in an environment free of heightened political intolerance, polarisation, divisions and conflict. They say Sadc leaders are troubled by the military’s manoeuvres and want to move to contain the situation.
“After the Luanda summit, a lot has been happening. Apart from the visit this week by the facilitation team and the Sadc team expected to work with Jomic, there has been a lot of other developments,” a senior Sadc diplomat said this week. “One of those issues is the role of the security forces in politics and elections Zimbabwe. There is rising concern, after recent remarks by army commanders, about the behaviour of the military and that’s why Sadc leaders want this issue confronted as soon as possible. Zuma is expected to deal with that issue during his next visit.”
Zuma is scheduled to meet President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara and MDC leader Welshman Ncube soon after the negotiators and the facilitation team has finalised the agenda for the meeting. Zuma’s facilitation team was in Zimbabwe this week in a bid to ratchet up pressure on GPA parties to implement the agreement, reforms and the elections roadmap.
“Zuma’s meeting with meeting with principals will be key in tackling critical issues on which there is some disputes, including the issue of security services,” on negotiator said. “It’s time for Sadc leaders to take the bull by its horns as they did in Luanda.”
The security forces, particularly the army, are blamed for spearheading the campaign of brutality to rescue Mugabe in the run-up to the June presidential election run-off. Fearing for his life, Tsvangirai pulled out in terror and even fled the country. He also had to seek refuge at the Dutch embassy in Harare as violence spread and intensified.
Sources say Zumaand other Sadc leaders want Section E of the election roadmap which deals with the rule of law implemented and is expected to press the principals to stop the military from meddling in politics and elections.
Section E(i) of the election roadmap reads: “Consistent with theprincipals’ agreement of 8th June 2010, there is a reaffirmation by all the parties to their commitment under articles 11 and 13 of the GPA. There will be meetings of the principals with the Attorney-General, Commissioner-General of the Police, heads of the other security and intelligence institutions to ensure full commitment to operate in a non-partisan manner consistent with the GPA”.
Sources said Zuma is expected to pressure the principals to hold meetings with security service chiefs to clear the air on their constitutional and legal roles in relations to politics and elections. However, Zuma’s international relations, Lindiwe Zulu, a member of the facilitation team,yesterday said she was not aware whether security sector issues would be on the agenda of the principals’ meeting with her boss. But negotiators insist it would be tackled.
Sadc sources said the issue of military interference in politics and elections in Zimbabwe also grabbed the attention of regional leaders after the recent warning by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi last month when she was in Haare on a human rights fact-finding mission. Pillay warned the polarised environment could lead to a repeat of the 2008 bloodshed unless reforms are implemented.
“Concern is also rising both inside and outside the country that, unless the parties agree quickly on some key major reforms and there is a distinct shift in attitude, the next election which is due sometime in the coming year could turn into a repeat of the 2008 election which resulted in rampant politically-motivated human rights abuses, including killings, torture, rapes, beatings, arbitrary detention, displacements and other violations,” Pillay warned.
While senior army commanders have made meddlesome remarks in the past, recent pronouncements by Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) chief-of-staff (quartermaster) Major-General Douglas Nyikayaramba, chief-of-staff (general staff) Major- General Martin Chedondoand last week by Major-General Trust Mugoba have sent alarm bells ringing across the region.
At the Luanda summit,Tsvangirai and Ncube expressed concern on the role of the military in politics and warned that the country risked sliding back into violence. They also called for all agreed reforms in the GPA and election roadmap to be implemented before polls.
In FebruaryBotswana Defence Forces commander Lieutenant-General Tebogo Carter Masire visited Zimbabwe and is said to have urged his peers to desist from meddling in politics. Botswana President Ian Khama, who has a strong military background, is reportedlyconcerned about Zimbabwe’s aggressive army interference in politics.
Sadcleaders are known to be against coups, and apart from Lesotho and DRC, the region has not had sustained military rule.In January 1986 Lesotho army chiefGeneral Justin Lekhanyaousted Prime Minister Chief Leabua Jonathan in a military coup.
Lekhanya was, however,dislodged in another military coup in April 1991 by Colonel Elias TutsoaneRamaema. Ramaema announced a schedule for Lesotho’s return to democracy which was fully restored in 1993. The army has had intermittent takeovers in Lesotho despite strong regional condemnation.
Coop attempts in Zambia in 1997 failed dismally. Sadc also acted swiftly a few years ago and refused to recognise former disc jockeyAndryRajoelina who grabbed power from Marc Ravalomananain Madagascar with the backing of the military. The international community, including the African Union and United Nations, are also averse to coups. Zimbabwe Independent
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