Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara convened a rare National Security Council meeting Friday as political tensions rose amid reports that the country's security forces are cracking down on critics of Mr. Mugabe's former ruling ZANU-PF party.
Government sources described the meeting chaired by Mr. Mugabe as tense. It followed another crisis meeting of the three unity government principals on Thursday during which they discussed reports of escalating violence in most parts of the country, mainly linked to the troubled constitutional revision public outreach process.
Community meetings in Harare were disrupted on the weekend of Sept. 18-19 by alleged ZANU-PF militants and one member of Mr. Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change died after an attack in Mbare, a Harare suburb.
Besides the three government principals, the two vice presidents and two deputy prime ministers, the security council comprises the ministers of Defense, Finance and Home Affairs, the commanders of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces, the Air Force, the police commissioner general and the commissioner of the Zimbabwe Prison Services.
Sources privy to the discussions said the main focus was the violence or other forms of disruption that have plagued the the constitutional outreach program since June, resulting in more than 1,000 meetings being scuttled.
Mr. Tsvangirai is said to have demanded that the security forces be more professional and stop meddling in politics. Mr. Mugabe and security officials countered that Mr. Tsvangirai’s supporters played a role in the violence.
The security council also discussed a request by the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitutional Revision for the Home Affairs Ministry and police to draw up detailed plans to provide security for outreach meetings.
Political analyst Earnest Mudzengi dismissed the National Security Council meeting, saying such gatherings were futile due to what he described as Mr Mugabe's intransigence.
The US government, the European Union and human rights groups have condemned the violence that has been seen in Harare and provinces such as Manicaland, Masvingo, Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland East which traditionally have been hotly contested by ZANU-PF and the former opposition MDC.