by MARCUS MUSHONGA
HARARE, (CAJ News) – RIGHTS groups have welcomed President Robert Mugabe’s call to the partisan military to stay clear of politics.
Mugabe (93) has lambasted the generals for their involvement in the fierce factionalism within the ruling Zanu-PF over his succession.
He has led the liberation party since 1977, the years before independence from Britain, and is under pressure to name a successor.
Army generals are as divided as Zanu-PF with some advocating for Vice President Emmerson Munangagwa to succeed the veteran leader while others are supporting a faction led by first lady Grace Mugabe, which supports Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi.
Zimbabwe’s state security forces, notably the military, have for several years interfered in the nation’s political and electoral affairs in ways that have adversely affected the ability of Zimbabwean citizens to vote freely.
Zanu-PF has increasingly relied on the security forces to confront political opposition within the party and externally In the 2008 elections which Mugabe lost to Morgan Tsvangirayi, the army played a major role in widespread and systematic abuses that led to the killing of up to 200 people, the beating and torture of 5 000 more and the displacement of 36 000.
He won the runoff poll unopposed after his rival pulled out of the race citing violence.
Human Rights Watch regional director, Dewa Mavhinga, welcomed Mugabe’s unprecedented call for the generals to refrain from partisanship.
“Mugabe’s recent call for the security forces to steer clear of politics provides an opportunity for the Zimbabwe authorities to begin fundamental changes to end the military partisanship that has contributed heavily to the country’s disastrous human rights situation.”
Mavhinga said security sector reforms were fundamental to the restoration of normality and respect for human rights.
Mugabe will stand for re-election next year.
– CAJ News