Zimbabwe needs personnel changes

Pro-democracy political parties and civil society groups have been at the forefront of demanding fundamental democratic reform to put Zimbabwe on the firm path to sustainable peace, stability and economic revival.


So far, the focus has been on the Inclusive Government to institute legal and institutional reforms, but not necessarily changes to key personnel within various institutions. I submit that it would be folly to insist on legislative and institutional changes without addressing the important question of the personnel responsible for running such institutions – and for promoting democracy, good governance and respect for human rights.

The closest that current debate has come to understanding the key role played by the individuals running institutions has been around the demand for security sector realignment to act in accordance with a multi-party democracy system and in the debate around the need to ensure that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is allowed to recruit new staff to assist in the administration and management of elections.

Radical change

What is required is radical change – including getting rid of the custodians of the old regime and allowing individuals with clean records to take the country forward.

Within the military and other arms of the security sector the problem has not been a lack of legislation of rules prohibiting unconstitutional, partisan conduct. The Zimbabwe Defence Act, the Police Act and the Constitution of Zimbabwe clearly and categorically prohibit partisan conduct on the part of our uniformed forces and prescribe clear penalties in the event of non-compliance.

The challenge has largely been a subversion of those rules and regulation done with impunity by those aligned to Zanu (PF) who know very well that they political leadership condones such partisan conduct. The only way to clean up and re-align the security sector would be to give an ultimatum to those political generals to choose whether they wish to serve in a professional army or they wish to become fulltime politicians, or, new farmers for that matter.


Normative and legislative reforms in and of themselves are meaningless in the absence of corresponding personnel changes. For the ZEC political leadership to be effectively independent and non-partisan, it is necessary that its staff be professional and independent. It would be naïve to hope that individuals who have served the old regime in a blatantly partisan manner would overnight become sworn democrats with no partiality towards Zanu (PF).

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa recently clearly demonstrated the futility of focusing on normative and hallow institutional reforms alone when he addressed the United Nations Human Rights Council with the incredible opening remarks that Zimbabwe is committed the promoting human rights for all.

Chinamasa proceeded to point to the existence of a number of laws and institutions in a way that would have won over the uninformed. But conduct on the ground is totally different from what is prescribed in the various laws.

Partisan police chief

The Police Act’s clear prohibition of political partisanship did not stop the police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri from publicly proclaiming his support for Zanu (PF), nor did the Defence Act stop Brigadier General Douglas Nyikayaramba from telling the public that ‘Zanu (PF) is in him and he is in Zanu (PF).’

While the laws of the land compel the police to thoroughly investigate all crimes and arrest suspected perpetrators, it is on public record that for all the politically-motivated crimes and abuses of the 2008 elections there has been little attempt to hold those responsible accountable.

One of the reason why Zanu (PF) probably signed a number of commitments to reform in terms of the Global Political Agreement was because the party knows there is a huge difference between commitments on paper and practical implementation. For this reason our demands for democratization must include a demand for a change in the political leadership of key state institutions.

Newly elected Zambia president Michael Sata appears to have understood this fundamental principle that to achieve change it is necessary to institute sweeping personnel changes.

While we desire to have a new democratic constitution that guarantees full and equal participation of all citizens in political processes including marginalized groups such as women, children, youths, people with disabilities and students, it is critical to ensure that government has the right leaders in place to ensure compliance with the supreme law of the land.

Full restoration of the rule of law and abolishing selective application of the law simply requires that senior personnel in the justice administration sector be professional and independent.

The challenge Zimbabwe faces is that over the last three decades, owing to the functioning of a elaborate system of patronage, many unqualified and unprofessional people have been promoted to positions of responsibility on account of their political credentials. These people must go. Gone are the days when being a ‘war-veteran’ or having a Zanu (PF) membership card was sufficient to secure a job or promotion. In this new Zimbabwe merit and professionalism are the primary requirements for work.

It is therefore understandable that some elements would resist reforms because they know that their jobs and livelihoods are not secure. But it is wrong to mislead them and say that the patronage system they benefited from will be extended in perpetuity. Zimbabwe must turn over a new leaf and restore dignity to professionalism. – Dewa Mavhinga, Regional Coordinator for Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition

Post published in: Politics
  1. Mutetwa

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