Defence and Security in a new Zimbabwe

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Fellow Zimbabweans

Zimbabwe’s politicised security services are the main obstacle to a new life for our nation. It is also true that the success of any attempt to rebuild Zimbabwe after Zanu-PF will depend on the extent to which the security services are democratised and professionalised. These institutions must be thoroughly depoliticised and reformed if we are to begin afresh and if we are to sustain change over the long term.

As such, I commissioned professional consultants to research and write a detailed paper on what a democratic security sector could look like. The resulting document represents my vision of what a new government could do to align the army, air force and CIO with international best-practice. This is not an official policy statement, but rather an ‘icebreaker’. My main aims in publishing the paper are to:

• Encourage a national debate among democratically-minded people on what a new security sector should look like. I welcome comments from all Zimbabweans, including those in the security sector who are eager to see their institutions professionalised. I am convinced that many of the younger members of the security services would like to be part of a system that is based on professionalism rather than politics. In such a system, they will work with their fellow Zimbabweans and not against them. They will be promoted and rewarded on merit—they will also be trained, equipped and paid in a way befits the most modern and proficient security services in the world. This is not a pipe dream but an achievable goal if a democratic transition can be brought about.

• Stimulate a discussion on how we are to get to the point where we can start the reform process. The paper applies to a situation where a transition has already occurred. But how will we get that opportunity when reactionary elements of the security sector refuse to abide by the democratic will of the people? What is needed to bring about a transition of power? Again, the views of all are welcomed—and particularly those who see the realities from within the confines of the services.

Key proposals in the paper

The key proposals in the paper are as follows:

• Within 30 days of coming to power, a new government would form an expert official review committee which would make recommendations on a wide range of defence and security issues as outlined in the report.

• A series of constitutional changes are needed to create a framework within which the security services are subordinated to the civil authority

an independent Defence and Security Inspectorate should be created

the purpose of the Inspectorate would be to ensure compliance with democratic norms within the services, thus ending the culture of immunity and impunity that has existed under the Rhodesian Front and Zanu-PF

» among other things, the Inspectorate would have powers to investigate each and every security service activity (including human rights violations and weapons procurement) and would be capable of mounting prosecutions

an Intelligence Services Act should be passed, bringing the intelligence apparatus under legislative control for the first time.

• The Zimbabwe Republic Police would be demilitarised and become the primary instrument for maintaining law and order; the army would be externally focused and could only be deployed internally in extreme conditions—and this deployment could be revoked by parliament at any time.

• Within Zimbabwe, the intelligence machinery would work in a subordinate capacity to the police and only in a technical/informational capacity; internal ‘special operations’ would be prohibited under a new constitution.

• The Police Act and Defence Act would be thoroughly examined and revised where necessary

» mandatory retirement ages should be implemented to provide opportunities for younger and more democratically-oriented officers.

• A paradigm shift in the culture of the services must occur

this will be encouraged by a major and ongoing program of professionalisation centred on depoliticisation, demobilisation (where necessary), redeployment, retraining and re-equipping

party militias and operational war veterans groups would become illegal—as would membership of political parties for services personnel.

A final word

Zimbabweans are an intelligent, capable people. Together we can build a new security sector and a new nation out the ashes left by Zanu-PF. I commend this paper to you and ask that you give me your considered thoughts through the secure feedback form on this website.

I believe firmly that we have the intellectual ability and determination to democratise our security services – but all freedom-loving Zimbabweans need to think and work together on this project if we are to see it become a reality.

Roy Bennett

May 2012

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