Army influence in Zim worrisome-Amnesty International report

THE growing influence of Zimbabwe’s military in governance issues poses a threat to human rights, global human rights lobby group Amnesty International said Monday.

In a report titled: Open for business but closed for dissent that details military atrocities in the wake of violent protests organized by labour federation the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions with support from the opposition MDC Alliance as well as local non-governmental organization, Amnesty International said the army was operating outside the law.

“President Mnangagwa’s tenure has been plagued by a cloud of fear arising from the actions of the security forces and factionalism within the Zanu PF raising questions about dual centres of power resulting in contradictory messaging from the government,” the report reads in part.

Reports claim there are divisions between Mnangagwa and Vice President Constantino Chiwenga who still commands considerable influence within the rank and file of the army. Chiwenga is seen by critics as the brutal side of Mnangagwa’s administration that has sought to project itself as reformist since the military intervention in November 2017 that toppled former President Robert Mugabe.

Mnangagwa recently told a group of private media journalists in a rare interview that the claims of a rift are an opposition creation.

“What example of the division to they give of the said division. I have known Chiwenga and the others (in the military command element) since the liberation struggle. We work well and they know I am the President,” Mnangagwa said with a chuckle.

Amnesty International said it had received numerous reports of torture and rape of women by the army with citizens now living in fear of an unending crackdown. The report said the army’s growing role in Mnangagwa’s administration is worrying.

“The fear is compounded by the increasing influence of the military. Growing signs of the army’s influence is also evident with the muted or compliant response by President Mnangagwa and his advisors to the army’s repressive response to public protests.

“The growing influence of the military can be summed up thus: They intervened and put an end to Mugabe’s rule, in clear terms, thwarted any political ambitions his wife Grace may have had and then enabled the ushering in of President Mnangagwa,” said the report.

Chiwenga then as Commander Defence Forces led Operation Restore Legacy that brought to an end Mugabe’s rule and paved the way for Mnangagwa’s ascendency to power. Mnangagwa made a triumphant return to assume power after two weeks in exile following his sacking as Vice President in a vicious internal struggle to succeed Mugabe that also involved then First Lady Grace.

Amnesty International said it was worried the military deployment in January was outside the confines of the law adding Zimbabwe was effectively under an undeclared State of Emergency.

Mnangagwa has promised to investigate all reports and in an interview with a French television channel Monday said: “We have requested all those with evidence of rape or those that were violated to report such cases. But we have only received one so far. We are challenging anyone or local to produce the women. However we are aware that some of them have been shipped to the United Kingdom.”

Mnangagwa added the protestors had targeted State institutions in a well coordinated “regime change operation.”

“This was a well coordinated, well funded and oiled operation that we have since discovered was planned well before the execution,” he said.