LETTERS from Zanu PF and war veterans requesting the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) to release an officer to enable her to campaign for the ruling party ahead of the 23 August general elections have sparked a political scandal.
The constitution forbids members of the security services from participating in political party activities, let alone holding office in parties.
Section 208 of the constitution expressly bars the security services — listed in section 207 as defence forces, police service, intelligence services and prisons and correctional services — from acting in a partisan manner.
Specifically, section 208 (2) says: “Neither the security services nor any of their members may in the exercise of their duties of functions — a) act in a partisan manner; b) further the interest of any political party or cause.”
Section 208(3) further reads: “Members of the security services must not be active members or office bearers of any political party or organisation.”
However, Zanu PF Mashonaland East secretary for security Jeremiah Chiwetu, a former police officer, wrote a letter dated 30 May 2023 to ZPCS chief director human resources administration and development, Commissioner Alvord Gapare, requesting the release of Caroline Majongo.
The letter also revealed that the Majongo, the prison official, was also serving as the Mashonaland East Zanu PF women’s league deputy secretary, in violation of the constitution.
Chiwetu, who is also Marondera East legislator, requested that Majongo be given time off to help organise the party ahead of elections.
Another letter dated 31 May 2023, written by retired Lieutenant-Colonel Samuel Makureya, the secretary for administration for the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association in Harare, said Majongo will be on national duty. The letter was addressed to Gapare.
“Requested is the release from duty of the above referred Zanu PF cadre who is the vice chairwoman Women’s League for the period as from 1 June 2023 up to end of elections.
“She will be carrying out national duty involved in the Party Voter Mobilisation Programmes. Your assistance by releasing her for this noble cause will be much appreciated,” Makureya, who is secretary for administration, wrote to Gapare.
In past elections, the conduct of members of the security forces has come under scrutiny because of their partisan behaviour.
The police, for example, have often been accused of arbitrarily blocking opposition rallies or arresting opposition officials for flimsy reasons.
The police have often been accused of brutalising members of the opposition during demonstrations or in detention, while members of the intelligence have often been accused of kidnappings.