31 July 2009: Tsvangirai Comes Face to Face With Defence Forces Commanders
Mugabe, seen here with Defence Forces Chief General Chiwengwa (whose car allegedly abducted Deputy Minister of Agriculture-designate Roy Bennett from Charles Prince Airport in February) remains firmly in control of the Defence Forces and Justice portfolios and the National Security Council meeting yesterday reinforced that with a tightly controlled agenda. This was the inaugural meeting of the NSC, from which nothing much should be expected. JOC remains active and PM Tsvangirai got no response to his "encouragement" to the body to dissolve.
The National Security Council (NSC) finally met for the first time yesterday under the Chairmanship of Robert "The Solution" Mugabe, whom the State Media now never mention without adding "Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces."
The service chiefs made a point of attending the meeting in civilian clothing.
The Service Chiefs reportedly sat stony-faced throughout. The meeting was tightly controlled by Mugabe and he could be seen fidgeting nervously when Tsvangirai and Mutambara as well as Thokozanu Khupe addressed the meeting.
He was quite clearly afraid that they may insist on unmasking this charade. He need not have feared, with Tsvangirai's speech being essentially an appeal to the Service chiefs to accept him and put the "national interest above partisan and personal interest". This did not go down well with the Service Chiefs, as I will explain.
Mugabe's Chief Spook, Director-General of the Central Intelligence Organisation actually briefed journalists on the meeting, betraying the fact that this was done mostly for show.
As I have told you even before the MDC-T made an "outstanding issue" out of the non-meetings of the NSC, JOC remains very much active.
Bonyongwe told the media that meetings of the NSC are strictly confidential and therefore, he could not discuss what was said there. He claimed the meeting was held in an "inclusive" atmosphere.
But Sekeramayi, the former Minister of Defence and a ZANU PF heavyweight and presidential aspirant, who attended the meeting as a Minister of State for State Security (in the President's Office), was happily harping away at what was said to the media.
Present were Tsvangirai, Mugabe, all the Service Chiefs, Mutambara, Joice Mujuru, Thokozani Khupe, Didymus Mutasa, Elton Mangoma and Welshman Ncube.
The Service Chiefs did not salute Tsvangirai before, during or after the meeting.
Although Tsvangirai, Mutambara and Khupe addressed the meeting, the Service Chiefs remained silent and stony-faced throughout.
Mugabe told the gathering that the NSC's role is to "review national policies of security, defence and law and order" and to recommend to the "Executive" areas that needed to be addressed.
That word, executive, is the key to the whole thing.
Only last week, the President's Office made it known through the state media that Tsvangirai has no executive power whatsoever except that which is due to any other minister, dismissing him in a front page story in the Herald as "just another minister, albeit the most senior one."
One of the Service Chiefs present was asking friends last night: "What right does Tsvangirai have to speak to us about putting national interest above partisan interest. We went to the bush for the sake of the national interest. Some of us died for it. We can't be lectured by someone who ran away from the struggle."
So, no change then?
Significantly, Happyton Bonyongwe of the CIO, in briefing journalists, said "from now on, the NSC will meet periodically."
It is supposed to meet every month.
And another thing:
Just as with cabinet meetings where Tsvangirai privately admits that nothing he wants to talk about is ever put on the agenda, he will also find that the NSC, with Mugabe in the Chair, will also discuss nothing of substance.
Mugabe, Bonyongwe and Sekeremayi decide on the agenda and they will almost certainly stick strictly to discuss "national security policy" and avoid all mention of arrests of Deputy Ministers of Agricultures or human rights activists, under the guise of "not discussing matters before the courts lest we be seen to be interfering with the judiciary."
Tsvangirai will not press home the point that these people were put into that "judicial process" by the very same people around that table at State House (Zimbabwe House as it is properly known).
One thing is for certain, despite this meeting, the Service chiefs remain implacably opposed to Tsvangirai and this will be in evidence shortly, in August, when the leaders gather for the Heroes Day celebrations at the Heroes Acre in Harare.
And a day after that when it is the Defence Forces Day. Tsvangirai will attend both because Mugabe made him promise to "honour national events" in the Global Political Agreement they signed.
Woe unto him should he fail to meet that expectation from his "Solution".
The impasse continues, then.