Push for security reforms, lawyers tell SADC

soldiers_picHARARE The Southern African Development Community (SADC) and African Union (AU) should push for security sector reforms in Zimbabwe to include an agreement on the role of soldiers and other security organs in the conduct of future elections, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said last week.

In a position paper on political developments in Zimbabwe, the ZLHR said the security forces remained the ones with the final say in political developments in Harare and urged SADC and the AU to urgently seek commitment by service chiefs to define the role of the military in electoral processes.

It called for the immediate engagement of the security sector by senior military structures in SADC and AU to establish a firm agreement on military role (or non-role) in electoral processes. Hardline Zimbabwean army generals have refused to publicly recognise the inclusive governments authority, especially former opposition leader now Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirais role.

The hardline generals who include Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander Constantine Chiwenga, police commission general Augustine Chihuri and Central Intelligence Organisation deputy director general Maynard Muzariri are believed to hold a de facto veto over the transition process by taking advantage of their positions and symbiotic relationship with President Robert Mugabe.

The cabal of powerful generals, with the support of elements in Zanu (PF), still believes that Tsvangirai should not be permitted to lead the country, even if he wins an election. It has previously been suggested that to get the generals to agree to step down, SADC and the AU should use the “carrot and stick” method, with offers of immunity from prosecution for past political crimes in return for retirement.

There has also been a proposal to assure the generals they would be able to keep at least some of their ill-gotten wealth and that to further sweeten the deal Western governments should lift visa and financial sanctions against officers agreeing to step down. The senior Zimbabwean security officials fear prosecution for gross human rights abuses committed in recent repression campaigns, especially those associated with the violent 2008 presidential and parliamentary election campaign as well as the 1980s anti-insurgents campaign in Matabeleland and Midland provinces. The so-called Gukurahundi massacre in the two provinces left over 20,000 mainly Ndebele-speaking people in Matabeleland dead in the


The ZLHR also proposed other short-term benchmarks to test political will and readiness for polls scheduled for later this year or in early 2012. These include the depoliticisation of the Zimbabwe Republic Police, repeal of tough security and media laws, operationalisation of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and an audit of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to ensure its operations and structures are conducive for the holding of free and fair polls.

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