SW Radio Africa (London)

23 April 2014

Zimbabwe: Military Junta Subverting Democratic Processes

The continuation of the country's political and economic crisis, nine months after the 2013 elections, is a result of the failure by the government of national unity to implement security sector reforms, a leading human rights campaigner has said.

Charles Mangongera said if the coalition partners in the last government had managed to implement some of the important reforms, that would have created conditions for a free and fair election in 2013. He believes that reforms to the security sector would have altered the political terrain significantly in Zimbabwe.

Mangongera told SW Radio Africa's Hidden Story program on Wednesday that the Global Political Agreement (GPA) that resulted in the formation of the unity government had the potential to deliver a democratic breakthrough in the country.

That development however was severely undermined by military elites who feared that a level political playing field would favour the MDC-T and its leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

In a research paper titled 'A new twilight in Zimbabwe? The Military VS Democracy,' Mangongera said Zimbabweans had high hopes that restrictive laws would be repealed so that they could freely participate in political, social, and economic life.

'To the disappointment of many however, the military elites used their power to stifle reform. The Joint Operations Command (JOC) has become a de facto policy making body that has usurped the traditional role of bureaucracy,' he said.

In the report that was released last week, Mangongera explains that while President Robert Mugabe's authoritarian grip on the state has been gradually slipping in the face of growing opposition, the military has grown 'more and more' involved in politics.

'Military elites have gained institutional vetoes and blocked the country's transition to democracy through the militarization of key state institutions and use of state sanctioned violence against Mugabe's challengers.

'In return, those military elites have been rewarded with lucrative government contracts, access to prime land and mining concessions from the state,' the report said.

Mangongera bemoans the lack of a viable opposition which he said could have challenged ZANU PF's disastrous economic record. He also cites the weakened civil society organisations as another reason why ZANU PF continues to ride roughshod over the rights of the people.

He says the only hope would be a strong and united opposition, bouncing back and taking advantage of the economic collapse to defeat Mugabe and his ZANU PF party.

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