Articles

Check-Mate The Military for An Effective Transition

Media reports highlight that the National Security Council (NSC) has not convened since May 2012 and events on the ground indicate that there is no meaningful security sector reform albeit that the inclusive government is now in its twilight zone. It is now clear that the establishment of the National Security Council was a calculated move by ZANU PF to deflect attention and not a prelude to democratic institution-al reform. This threatens any efforts to attain at least a minimalist democratic transition which encompasses the instalment of a freely and fairly elected government. As things stand, the military can step in at any stage of the electoral cycle and work to hold back democratisation efforts.

 

The political disposition of the military elites as epitomised by their sup-port for ZANU PF presents an unpredictable wild card that can stall Zimbabwe's transition. The attempt to justify military intervention in politics by ZANU PF stalwarts because of the history of the liberation war is archaic to say the least. Surely the liberation war was justifiable and legitimate guerrilla warfare. However, guerrilla ways of operation are only a cherished part of our history but cannot anchor a modern independent society forward.

 

As Huntington argues, 'the military are the ultimate support of regimes €¦if they refuse to use force against those who threaten to over-throw the regime, then the regime falls'. Van de Walle corroborates that, 'in short, as went the military, so went the transition'. However, the Zimbabwean army is not homogeneous as some junior ranking officials are professionally oriented but there is a cabal within the military elites that seek to retain the incumbent President and or to seek political power and as the military operates by way of hierarchical control the elite faction dominates. This faction is scared of losing its ill-gotten wealth which includes gold, platinum, diamond mines and let alone highly capitalised farms inherited during Fast Track land reform. The fate of Zimbabwe's transition largely rest in the hands of the military elite determined to protect the incumbent for their own personal safety and material acquisition.

 

How can Zimbabwe check-mate the behaviour of the military? Given the anti-democratic role of the military that stalled state power transfer in March 2008, the Global Political Agreement (GPA) is clear in article 13 of the need to reform and democratise state organs and institutions. One preferably and ideal route is to follow the GPA re-forms to their logical conclusion. However, with less than a year before a general election this is proving to be a herculean task. It might be more practical to run a parallel campaign that seeks to regulate the behaviour of the generals before, during and post-election. How soldiers behave will determine whether Zimbabwe is going to have a successful transition.

 

The code of conduct should be guaranteed by SADC under the contemporary GPA arrangement. In the election phase soldiers must not be allowed to beat up civilians, make partisan statements and be involved in political campaigns. Further the military must be confined to the barracks and not step back into villages, salute the winner of the election and not subvert the will of the people through a coup whether loud or silent.

 

Civil society, ordinary people, political parties and SADC must make it clear that it will not accept the elections as competitive, free and fair if there is a breach of the code of conduct in the monitored phase. This should be one way of measuring the freeness and fairness of the next election. Institutions such as JOMIC, where SADC sent monitors must complement the monitoring of men in national uniform.

 

As the electoral season approaches it is important to have a periodic review of the behaviour of the soldiers which must be submitted to the facilitator, facilitation team and members of the SADC Troika. It is through such monitoring that the behaviour of the soldiers can be placed under the democratic microscope. Otherwise the installation of a democratic government might remain a pipe -dream.

 

What must accompany the code of conduct are the consequences for breaching. SADC must clearly spell out what it will do in the event of the breach of the code of conduct. The military men who will defy the code of conduct must be viewed as threats to regional peace and stability and must be classified as such. This is because the instability of Zimbabwe has an effect on peace and security in the region. Placing the problem in the regional context will raise the cost of anti-democratic behaviour and coercive practices by the military.

 

This is touting an idea in its infancy and with more deliberation it can be sharpened as the military remains a thorn in the transition matrix.

 

By Phillan Zamchiya, Regional Coordinator, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition

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