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The urgency of security sector reforms

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A few weeks ago, I took interest in understanding the role of the security sector in national and human development. I decided to start with a cursory look at the visions and mission statements of the various security ministries in southern Africa. Obviously, I had to start with my country. After a brief internet search, I came across the vision of the Ministry of Home Affairs in Zimbabwe. It reads “To guarantee security, order, pride and peace of mind for all Zimbabweans”.
I am sure there are many Zimbabweans, who, like me, would find this bold vision an interesting but shocking read if pitted against their experiences over the years, perhaps even today-the opposite of all that: insecurity, disorder, dehumanisation and troubled minds.
Security sector in Zimbabwe
The security sector in Zimbabwe, particularly the police, intelligence services and the army have been accused of abuse and perpetration of violence against ordinary citizens. As a result, the intelligence services, army and even the police are dreaded. This is largely because of their involvement –in the name of security, order and peace of minds for all Zimbabweans, in a number of widely discredited operations that resulted in displacements, injuries, deaths, rape cases, loss of property and many other forms of human rights violations.
The security chiefs are on record for saying that they will not salute political leaders with no liberation credentials. For many Zimbabweans, this was a clear reference to the Movement for Democratic Change. As a result, the security sector has been accused of taking sides with the Zanu PF party, instead of guaranteeing the security and peace of minds of all Zimbabweans. Section 13 (1) of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) makes it clear that “State organs and institutions (including army, police and intelligence services) do not belong to any political party and should be impartial in the discharge of their duties”.
It is against this background, that security sector reform is paramount and urgent.
Security sector reform
The security sector, as defined by the Global Facilitation Network for Security Reform, refers to all the formal state institutions with the mandate to ensure security and safety of the state and its citizens against acts of violence, coercion or other internal or external threats. These include armed forces, the police, para-military forces, intelligence services and the elected and duly appointed civil authorities responsible for control and oversight of these institutions.
Security sector reform will include developing frameworks aimed at ensuring that the security sector conducts its work in a non-partisan, responsible, transparent, accountable and responsive manner if the vision of guaranteeing the security, order and peace of mind for all
Looking ahead
Zimbabweans should make a strong case before the unity government for urgent security sector reform. Most people in Zimbabwe have no clue of what the National Security Council is doing or intends to do concerning the security sector. Section 13(2) of the Global Political Agreement outlines some of the key components of a security sector reform programme in Zimbabwe. These are outlined below.
Conceptualisation of roles
The conceptualisation of security in Zimbabwe needs to be revisited. It appears that there is a bias on defining security in terms of protection of those in power and their interests as opposed to a more people-centred approach in which, as the vision of Ministry of Home Affairs puts it, the peace and security of all Zimbabweans is the main driver of security sector strategies. In responding to this, section 13 2(a) of the GPA advocates for the inclusion in the training curriculum of members of the uniformed forces of the subjects on human rights, international humanitarian law and statute law so that there is greater understanding and full appreciation of their roles and duties in a multi-party democratic system.
Depoliticising the security sector
In line with section 13 (1), there is need for the security sector to be de-party politicised. This is even more pertinent noting the historical relations, emanating from the liberation struggle, between the security sector, Zanu PF party and government. Section 13 2 (b) calls upon the parties to the GPA to ensure that all state organs and institutions strictly observe the principles of the rule of law and remain non-partisan and impartial.
Security sector strategies
Zimbabwe also needs to review its security sector strategies with a view to embracing a human security as opposed to a state-centric approach to security issues. This should be done in a participatory manner, whereby all stakeholders including civil society have a stake and their contributions are considered in reshaping the future of Zimbabwe.
Supportive policies and laws
Zimbabwe does not need laws that restrict personal freedoms. Supportive laws and policies are the hallmarks of democratic and effective states. Laws such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, Public Order and Security Act, Miscellaneous Offenses Act and many others that have become handy to the security sector certainly need to be reviewed. Laws and regulations governing state organs and institutions should be strictly adhered to and those violating them be penalised without fear or favour.
•Bob L Muchabaiwa is a Zimbabwean working for a regional organisation based in Botswana. He writes is his personal capacity.

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