A clash is brewing between politicians and security chiefs about the handling of the security response to the aftermath of the violent protests that hit the country two weeks ago, Business Times has learnt.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has called for justice to be done, including punishment for rogue elements in the security services who capitalised on the crackdown to commit human rights abuses, rape and other offences. Insiders have linked this move to his efforts to cleanse and remodel the security sector.
The security sector restructuring, to be spearheaded by State Security Minister Owen Ncube, includes a massive remodelling of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) to become professional and non-partisan. But the Business Times has learnt that the restructuring is being resisted and frustrated by those opposed to Mnangagwa.
“When the CIO was professional, it had a real sting feared by some of the people who now want to fight the system. But the reform will happen and the results will deal with all machinations against the seat of power,” said a close source who requested not to be named.
However, the deputy chief secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet in charge of presidential communications, George Charamba, said there was an ongoing restructuring across all government departments which is not limited to the CIO or State Security alone.
“There is a revitalisation of all institutions of government to make sure they measure up to the tempo of what is expected in the second republic,” Charamba said. “There is a drive to build efficiency across all departments.”
Just over a year after Operation Restore Legacy ended President Robert Mugabe’s 37-year rule while stamping out widespread and open factionalism in Zanu-PF and the government, friction and camps appear to have re-emerged.
This comes as the government is dealing with rogue elements operating outside the security command chain to commit human rights abuses. This, insiders say, has become a fresh battlefield pitting political heavyweights against those wanting to derail the President’s economic revival and international re-engagement efforts.
A video showing police officers beating up a man who had been arrested and handcuffed, has jolted the government into action. The police have launched a hunt for the “rogue” officers accused of indiscipline.
President Mnangagwa said he was appalled by the video and instructed the officers to be arrested.
The government, through the Ministry of Information, has also urged victims of rape by security officers to report to the “friendly” section of the Police Force or to NGOs who work with the police and the justice system.
This has angered some quarters in the security service which wants to sweep all cases under the carpet. The army, sources say, feels targeted by the police who are trying to push all the offences on soldiers, while, in contrast, the police also feel they are being targeted by some elements in the army and central intelligence.
Sources close to the investigations say a pile of cases has been compiled. An official greenlight from the President’s Office will see several soldiers, police officers, and CIO agents arrested on charges ranging from rape to murder.
“Some of the cases may actually go back to Mugabe’s era although the focus is on what happened recently,” said one source.
Contacted, Charamba said the handling of those criminal cases had nothing to do with the President’s attitude.
“Prosecution does not depend on the attitude of the President, it is a matter of the law and what is material is the question of sufficient evidence,” Charamba explained, adding that the internal processes to separate imposters from bona fide officers is also crucial.
“There is an easy assumption that these perpetrators were all police officers and or soldiers, but the reality is that there are some imposters,” Charamba said. “You learn of a policeman torching a Zupco bus which he is supposed to be protecting, how is it even possible.”
Charamba said the fear that the prosecution would be targeted at certain individuals or punish officers working under command was unfounded.
“What invites prosecution is not deployment of lawful orders, but when you exceed them people must not confuse roguery with exceeding orders. This will not affect soldiers who followed orders to the letter,” he added.
In another development, there are indications that there is a battle for control of the country’s security apparatus by perceived factions within the ruling party.
This has seen the germination of parallel structures all angling for control of the state security establishment.