Don’t throw away the baby with the bathwater: Putting up with challenges of the Zimbabwean GNU (Part 2)

Posted: July 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” – Dolly Parton

When it was formed in September 2008, the Zimbabwe Government of National Unity (GNU) agreed to prioritize the economy, politics, security and communication as matters that needed urgent review in order for Zimbabwe to return to stability. Last week, I wrote about economic and political progress and this week I will discuss the challenges presented by reforms proposed in the security and communications sectors, and will also say a few things about what others feel needs to be done. A line in Valkyrie, a film that depicts the 20 July 1944 plot by German army officers to assassinate Adolf Hitler goes: “This is a military operation. Nothing ever goes according to plan” and the same can be said of the fragile politics of our coalition government. It was expected that we would find challenges in tackling security and communication sector reform but then as the quote above says, “…If you want to see the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain”.

Security Sector Reforms (SSR)

Security sector reform (SSR) remains a key challenge to the three main parties in the GNU. It is not always clear what reforms the coalition partners want. The Institute for Security Studies in South Africa describes SSR as reform interventions undertaken within the security sector to address policy, legislation, structural and behavioral matters within the context of democratic ideals, rule of law and respect for human rights – that is a very broad umbrella covering a multitude of options and challenges.

Zimbabwe, like many post colonial states, inherited repressive state security apparatus geared towards the protection of the ruling regime. Post-Independence, our security structures were placed at the core of state power and were given extensive powers while subjected to little oversight or accountability. The influence they had as ZANU PF fighters before Independence continued after Independence, this time dabbling in politics, claiming entitlement to govern the country and reaping the material benefits of access to power. It is hardly surprising that reforms to bring the security apparatus in line with international democratic standards are

“…Saying no to SSR”

fiercely resisted. For many years, the leaders in the security sector have been represented in ZANU PF high decision-making ranks and interventions proposed by the Global Political Agreement (GPA) directly threaten  their current status. They have made public statements to the effect that the security sector will not respect anyone as leader of the country unless they come from a ZANU PF liberation background. Likewise, they are strongly backed by ZANU PF, which as one of the parties in the GPA is said to be resisting most of the interventions proposed.

Expectations from the GPA are that the security apparatus should play an impartial role in politics in order to contribute to building a society free of violence, fear, intimidation, hatred and patronage. The GPA proposed training for the security sector personnel and law enforcement officials in human rights and international humanitarian law and I am not sure if this has happened.

One of the key reforms will be targeting the intelligence sector. The current constitution says nothing about checks and balances on CIO activity. In short, this means that the intelligence community is not accountable to anyone and free to continue infiltrating society with aims of repressing political opposition with impunity. Democracy requires legislative measures to ensure that this sector doesn’t overstep its mandate and Zimbabwe’s scenario must encourage the same. We need these reforms as of yesterday but caution must be taken in order to remove from or keep out the rest of the military from politics to increase pressure on their leadership to accept proposed interventions. We must also respect the need to avoid compromising our national security because of a few individuals who are manipulating the current system.

Can we put up with the rain?

One of the measures that may have been used to deal with SSR in other countries especially in the post-cold war period was a consideration of various exit options, especially for senior security staff who may have been compromised by politics. These measures may have to involve some form of immunity in exchange for retirement. I know this may sound controversial in the Zimbabwean context but such measures are designed to help open up the space in the security sectors to allow for more increased representation and diversity, in turn contributing to a more legitimate and stable security environment. It’s not up to me to decide but I am sure everybody wishes for sense to prevail because without interventions in the security sector, we are bound to go back to pre-2008 political environment that was characterized by political violence, intimidation and repression and significantly less hope for the nation. As the planner of the GPA, the regional SADC bloc must play a closer role here to make sure that these reforms do not trigger bloodshed at the end of the day.

Improving the communications sector

The GPA, in its communication priority, focuses on the media and the issue of external radio stations. Feedback and reports suggest that there has been a lack of sincerity in implementing media reforms, particularly in the electronic media, where there are still no independent players. While new players may have been introduced, all are formally or informally known to be linked to ZANU-PF. For example, Supa Mandiwanzira’s AB Communications was allegedly granted a radio license to broadcast only because of his close links to ZANU PF.  Zimbabwe remains the only SADC country without independent radio and television stations.

Concluding her visit to Zimbabwe in May, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, encouraged Zimbabwe to do away with laws that infringe citizens’ rights which include the infamous Access to Information and Privacy Act (AIPA). She also noted that the Zimbabwe Media Commission was more concerned with controlling and censoring media than with promoting freedom of expression. This was again demonstrated by the Minister of Media, Information and Publicity, Webster Shamu who, two weeks ago summoned and threatened editors (including editors from Zimpapers), accusing them of writing false stories about Zimbabwe. This is a major concern because the same Minister has done nothing about implementing what was agreed in the GPA. The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Mass Media Trust and the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings boards are still not reconstituted as required by the GPA. The question of external radio station is a tough one because these are owned by independent people in foreign lands where the country has no jurisdictions. ZANU PF had complained that the GNU should lobby for the closure of these stations but we have recently heard ZANU PF people being interviewed by stations like SW Radio Africa. The list is endless but as Navy Pillay concluded, unless the parties agreed quickly on some key major reforms, the next election could turn into a repeat of the 2008 bloodbath. I hope that at the end of the day, our politicians will find a compromise and in the meantime ordinary people like us should make sure we keep asking for updates and demanding progress.

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Comments
  1. Rejoice says:

    If we [MDC] inflict a massive, beyond-reasonable-doubt electoral defeat on ZANU-PF in 2013, we can resist SS interference Arab-style. This man will not go without a fight – so he needs a TKO!

    • Mathula says:

      I agree sir. Democracy will never be served on a silver plate at home..needs a couple of ideas beyond the general dos of what we have been…a bit of a higher pressing level..

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