By A Correspondent- Zimbabwe’s security forces are the biggest threat to free and democratic elections because of their partisan nature, human rights watchdogs have said.
The army has been widely implicated in partisan political behaviour and electoral interference, including voter intimidation and violence targeting opposition figures as well as manipulating results.
The security forces, not the ballot-box, are playing a decisive role in shaping Zimbabwe’s political landscape according to the Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Launching the position paper on military factor in Zimbabwe, under the theme Partisan security forces: Zimbabwe’s biggest election risk on Thursday last week, HRW director Dewa Mavhinga said security forces were Zimbabwe’s biggest election risk.
“We have seen that over the years, the politicised and highly-partisan security force has played a role in directing the political and electoral affairs of Zimbabwe,” Mavhinga said.
“So, the key to ensuring credible, free and fair elections in Zimbabwe really has to do with the removal of the security sector from being involved in the country’s civilian and political affairs.” Mavhinga said.
He said the security forces had been involved in politics in the country since 1980, culminating in the November 2017 coup that toppled long-time ruler, the late former President Robert mugabe.
Zimbabwe Democracy institute director, Pedzisai Ruhanya, who presented the second paper titled: The military factor: Zimbabwe’s centre of political gravity, echoed Mavhinga’s sentiments.
“Literature has it that the military has been the power block that stands between the people and their freedom that prevents possible democratic transition to freedom,” Ruhanya said.
“The institutions that administer elections are captured and infiltrated by the military and i can give you an example of the Zimbabwe electoral Commission.
“Since it was called the Zimbabwe election supervisory Commission, the chief executive officer and secretariat of Zec were captured by the military from the late Lovemore Sekeramai to the current chief executive officer Utoile Silayigwana and in the provincial set up, it is the military or intelligence that runs the secretariat. The electoral machinery is captured.”
The virtual discussion was organised by the Crisis Coalition of Zimbabwe.