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After Months of Delay, Zimbabwe Security Oversight Panel Is Convened

By Ntungamili Nkomo
Washington
30 July 2009

Zimbabwe's National Security Council convened for the first time Thursday to take up issues related to the armed forces and security services, nearly six months after the formation of a national unity government by ZANU-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change.

Several scheduled meetings were said to have been called off because security chiefs loyal to President Robert Mugabe and the long-ruling ZANU-PF party, refused to sit down with MDC founder Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to brief him on national security matters.

Tsvangirai spent a decade in opposition after founding the MDC in 1999, challenging Mr. Mugabe twice in presidential contests and coming close to defeating him in 2008. His party maintains Mr. Tsvangirai's victory in that election was taken from him by fraud.

Informed sources said Thursday's meeting focused on the official dissolution of the council's predecessor, the Joint Operations Command. The security chiefs promised at the meeting to work closely with Mr. Tsvangirai, VOA sources said.

Defense Forces Commander Constantine Chiwenga, Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri and Prisons Commissioner Major-General Paradzai Zimondi, declared before last year's election that they would not acknowledge Mr. Tsvangirai as president if he won.

Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, one of President Mugabe's closest associates, told House of Assembly members on Wednesday that the security chiefs had no obligation to salute Mr. Tsvangirai, as they have previously resolved never to do.

Chaired by President Mugabe, the council reviews policies on national security and general law and order, and recommends or directs appropriate action by the services.

Sources said Deputy Prime Ministers Thokozani Khupe and Arthur Mutambara joined Mr. Tsvangirai in the council meeting as did Finance Minister Tendai Biti.

Political analyst Glen Mpani of Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation in Cape Town, South Africa, told reporter Ntungamili Nkomo of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that he had misgivings whether the security chiefs will respect the prime minister.



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