BULAWAYO – As the eagerly-anticipated 2018 national polls beckon, the People’s Rainbow Coalition (PRC) has challenged President Emmerson Mnangagwa to introduce security sector reforms to guarantee the holding of free and fair elections then.
Mnangagwa recently reconfigured the security sector, retiring and promoting several security chiefs who served under former president Robert Mugabe, as he charts a new path.
At the same time, the president has also assured the nation and the opposition that next year’s elections will be peaceful, free and fair.
However, the PRC — a coalition that includes former vice president Joice Mujuru — said earlier this week that it was doubtful that the 2018 national elections would be free and fair because of the heavy presence of military chiefs in Mnangagwa’s government, as well as in the ruling Zanu PF.
“Zimbabwe is currently under the de facto control of a group of generals who operate under a veneer of a civilian Cabinet.
“Viewed from this perspective, the expanded role of the military in politics, economy and government makes Mnangagwa a mere rubber-stamping organ that endorses policies and policy ideas generated from KGVI (now Josiah Tongogara) barracks,” PRC secretary-general Gorden Moyo said.
Moyo said this while presenting a paper on the forthcoming 2018 elections during a discussion forum that was held in the City of Kings.
“Effectively speaking, Zimbabwe has now joined the league of Burma, North Korea, Pakistan and the like. Apparently, the military’s role in forcing Mugabe out and their continuing presence as key political players presents a major challenge to the rule of law, constitutional order and electoral democracy,” he added.
Mnangagwa has rung changes to the security sector and retired some key military personnel who played a prominent role in his rise to power. He appointed retired chief air marshal Perrance Shiri and former Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) chief of staff, retired lieutenant general Sibusiso Busi Moyo into his Cabinet, as well as naming retired lieutenant general Engelbert Rugeje as Zanu PF political commissar.
Mnangagwa has also named Zimbabwe Ambassador to South Africa Isaac Moyo as the new boss for the national spy agency, the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) — while cutting loose long serving police chief Augustine Chihuri.
Yesterday, he swore in former commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, retired general Constantino Chiwenga as vice president, together with Defence minister Kembo Mohadi.
However, the PRC’s demands are similar to those made to Mugabe by the opposition before and during the 2009 inclusive government. Civic groups have also been agitating for sweeping electoral reforms ahead of the crunch elections which they say must be held in an environment which doesn’t promote disputes like what happened during the 2008 and 2013 polls.
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai beat Mugabe hands down in the hotly-disputed 2008 elections.
However, the results of those polls were withheld for six long weeks by stunned authorities — amid widespread allegations of ballot tampering and fraud which were later revealed by former bigwigs of the ruling party.
In the ensuing sham presidential run-off, which authorities claimed was needed to determine the winner, Zanu PF apparatchiks engaged in a murderous orgy of violence in which hundreds of Tsvangirai’s supporters were killed in cold blood, forcing the former prime minister in the inclusive government to withdraw from the discredited race altogether.
Mugabe went on to stand in a widely-condemned one-man race in which he declared himself the winner.
However, Sadc and the rest of the international community would have none of it, forcing the nonagenarian to share power with Tsvangirai for five years, to prevent the country from imploding completely.
“The recent electoral history of Zimbabwe is replete with acts of electoral terrorism by the members of the armed forces, including acts of violence and intimidation, arson and murder, including a vicious repression campaign against the members of the opposition parties, civil society, academia and labour in 2000, 2002, 2005, 2008 and 2013.
“The rise of the military in November (this year) casts a dark cloud on the 2018 elections. Clearly, the military has emerged as the bedrock of Mnangagwa’s power and political commissars for Zanu PF ahead of the 2018 elections,” Moyo said further.
“To this extent, security sector transformation is crucial if the upcoming 2018 elections are to be seen to be credible, free and fair. This includes ensuring that all public statements and actions of the military reflect a commitment to a strictly neutral political role in accordance with the Constitution and international law,” he added.
Last month, the military launched Operation Restore Legacy, which led to Mugabe and his wife Grace being deposed from power and being placed under house arrest.
Several Cabinet ministers linked to the Generation 40 (G40) faction who had coalesced around Grace were targeted in the operation which ended only recently, with the soldiers only retreating to the barracks after five weeks of executing the operation.
The curtain fell on the veteran former Zimbabwe and Zanu PF leader on November 21 when he resigned moments after Parliament had started proceedings to impeach him.