Elections and Security Sector Reform in Zimbabwe


According to the principles of Security Sector Reform as set out in the United Nation’s Secretary General’s 2008 report entitled “Securing Peace and Development: The Role of the United Nations in Support of Security Sector Reform,” Security Sector Reform (SSR) is described as “a process of assessment, review and implementation as well as monitoring and evaluation of the security sector led by national authorities.” In the same report, the Security Sector is defined as “the structures, institutions and personnel responsible for the management, provision and oversight of security in a country.” The report also states that the goal of SSR is “the enhancement of effective and accountable security for the state and its peoples without discrimination and with full respect of human rights and the rule of law.”

Zimbabwe’s top securocrats have recently rejected the notion of SSR in the country, arguing that it fortifies a western-led anti-ZANU-PF regime change agenda. This has consequently ruffled the political feathers of pro-SSR parties in the country who are demanding that reforms are enacted before elections can take place.

It should be observed that when it comes to security sector related issues the world is full of contradictions. In fact, while it is acknowledged that SSR is intended to promote “human rights and the rule of law,” it also controversially argued that so-called non-democratic regimes such as Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tunisa are most urgently in need of SSR. This is a misconception.

Instead of attempting to delve into the debate of SSR in Zimbabwe, I deem it a priority to argue that on the contemporary global arena, no single nation-state has the moral high ground when it comes to the relationship between the security sector, human rights and the rule of law.

For instance, Professor Christof Heyns, the U.N. special rapporteur on executions recently stated that robotic weapons systems with varying degrees of autonomy and deadliness are being tested or used by the United States and Britain (countries often perceived to be at the forefront of the human rights discourse) without debate on moral and legal issues. These weapons, commonly known as ‘drones’ are believed to have killed more civilians than militants in Pakistan and Yemen. Furthermore, the controversy surrounding Guantanamo bay, as well as the recent furore ignited by CIA employee Edward Snowden’s leaks of state secrets all point towards the furtive and duplicitous nature of security establishments even in the so-called open societies of the world.

Elsewhere, Turkish security forces have recently cracked down on thousands of anti-government supporters in Taksim Square, resulting in four deaths and thousands of injuries. This is the same Turkey that is currently holding almost 100 journalists in police custody according to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, yet also the same Turkey that not long ago had anything but vitriol for the Syrian government’s crackdown on ‘rebels.’ As I write this there is no mention of security sector reform in Turkey.

The irony resonates in the SADC facilitator’s tendency to call for security sector reforms in Zimbabwe before elections. Yet, when Jacob Zuma was asked to answer for the recent surreptitious involvement of South African troops in the Central African Republic, he responded: “The problem in South Africa is that everybody wants to run the country… there must also be an appreciation that military matters and decisions are not matters that are discussed in public.” No need to mention Marikana.

Back in Harare, The MDC-T is calling for security sector reforms before elections can be held this year. Yet, recently MDC-T security guards allegedly assaulted Zimbabwe Independent journalist Herbert Moyo and barred him from covering a demonstration at the MDC-T Harvest House headquarters. No mention of reforms there. Now what can I conclude of all this? Nothing, except that all is fair in love and war.

Tau Tawengwa

Executive Director