Partisan Security Forces: Zimbabwe’s Biggest Election Risk?

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition has launched a position paper on the challenges to the holding of free and fair elections in Zimbabwe. The paper posits that highly partisan and politicised security forces are a barrier to the holding of free and fair elections in the country. Recommendations suggested include investigation of rights abuses by government, setting up the long overdue Independent Complaints Commission and continued advocacy and lobby by CSOs. Read on for more on this.

The biggest barrier to the holding of credible, free and fair elections in Zimbabwe, which are constitutionally due in 2023, is the highly partisan and extremely politicized security forces.

The key to ensuring free and fair elections is to urgently reform Zimbabwe’s security sector to remove it from any involvement in the country’s civilian and political affairs. It is largely the security sector leadership that is openly partisan towards ZANU-PF and benefitting from political patronage; the rank and file of the security forces remains independent and professional.

During the so-called ‘military-assisted-transition’ in November 2017, which is the coup that removed longtime ruler, Robert Mugabe, from power and replaced by current leader Emmerson Mnangagwa, the decisive role and presence of the security forces controversially became overt and ubiquitous in the civilian space.

The Zimbabwe authorities need to reform the security forces, completely end their involvement in partisan politics, and ensure that they act constitutionally, professionally, and in a rights-respecting manner. For any civil society, social movement, or citizens campaign for creating a national environment conducive for the holding of free and fair elections to be successful, it must tackle the elephant in the room, that is, the military factor in Zimbabwean political and economic affairs.

Zimbabwe’s state security forces, notably the military, have for decades since independence in 1980, interfered in the country’s political and electoral affairs in ways that have adversely affected the ability of Zimbabweans to vote freely. This brazen interference has in the past severely undermined the credibility of elections and resulted in widespread countrywide political violence.

The security forces have operated within a system that has allowed elements within their ranks to arrest, torture and kill perceived opponents with impunity. The first post-independence overt military involvement in Zimbabwe’s political affairs was during the period from 1983 to 1987 when Mugabe and ZANU-PF deployed a section of the army, the Fifth Brigade (a special army unit trained by North Korean instructors and code named “Gukurahundi” – the rain that washes away the chaff), ostensibly to quell dissident disturbances in the Midlands and Matabeleland provinces.

Read the full paper here (124KB PDF)

Source: Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition

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