Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has described as “nonsense” the demands for reform of the country's security sector advanced by the Movement for Democratic Change and encouraged by South African officials facilitating Harare talks.
The MDC has accused security forces including the national army, the police and the Central Intelligence Organization of clamping down on its supporters to help Mr. Mugabe maintain his grip on power through the next elections, as yet unscheduled.
But in the second installment Friday of an interview published in the Southern Times, jointly published by Zimbabwean and Namibian state media, Mugabe said that the security sector is “well-established” and so he will not allow it to be reformed.
The first installment of the interview was published on the eve of the Southern African Development Community summit in Windhoek, Namibia, that got underway Friday.
The summit was originally intended to focus on a road map to Zimbabwe elections, but that discussion has been rescheduled for a summit in June in South Africa whose president, Jacob Zuma, said he could not attend the Windhoek summit.
Mr. Mugabe suggested there was nothing wrong with the security forces supporting his ZANU-PF party saying, “They are a force that has a political history. They have fought colonialism in this country and brought about independence that we have.”
Asked about suggestions from some quarters that he should arrange his succession as president of ZANU-PF, Mr. Mugabe said his guidance was still required.
"The party needs me," Mr. Mugabe said. "We should not create points of weakness within the party. Once you have change, and if we had it now for example… that is an act that might destroy the party for a while as it goes through transition."
Spokesman Nhlanhla Dube of the MDC formation of Industry Minister Welshman Ncube told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that the president is the one talking “nonsense” in maintaining that there is no room for security reform.
"Calling for reform is certainly not nonsensical. What would be nonsensical is refusing to understand the motivation behind the thought of these reforms," Dube said.
Dube's sentiments were echoed by Douglas Mwonzora, spokesman for the MDC formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. He told VOA Studio 7 reporter Konga Kandemiiri that his party will keep pressing for all needed reforms.
Zimbabwean senior security officials have often declared that they would not accept any outcome that removed Mugabe from office, raising concerns as to whether they would be prepared to accept the outcome of the next elections. In addition, the military is said to have deployed retired officers across the country to bolster ZANU-PF structures.
Political commentator Rejoice Ngwenya said that without security sector reform, Zimbabwe can never achieve true democracy.
Meanwhile, in connection with the SADC summit in Windhoek, Zimbabwean non-governmental organizations issued a call for elections to be put off until after this year, saying the country at present lacks the capacity to conduct a proper ballot.
In a statement to the summit, the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said Zimbabwe has its hands full with putting a new constitution in place and instituting other reforms. It urged the regional organization to set minimum conditions for Harare to fulfill before a vote.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Regional Coordinator Dewa Mavhinga told VOA Studio 7 reporter Tatenda Gumbo that Mr. Mugabe’s statements this week rejecting security sector reform do not represent the views of most Zimbabweans.