Zimbabwe PM: We will end police, military abuse

Last Updated: Sun, May 19, 2013 17:00 hrs

Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said Sunday his party will end years of bias and abuse by the police, military and intelligence services and will make sure the services uphold the country's new constitution which demands impartiality in their duties.

Tsvangirai said if his party comes to power it will manage the police and military so that Zimbabweans "will not fear their soldiers and policemen" any longer.

Launching his party's election platform, Tsvangirai said security services must be professional and non-partisan in their operations and respect civilian politicians.

President Robert Mugabe's loyalist police and military are widely blamed by human rights organizations for state-orchestrated violence in previous elections.

New polls are expected around September to end a shaky coalition government formed after violent, disputed elections in 2008.

Speaking mainly in the local Shona language to some 15,000 supporters at a rally concluding his Movement for Democratic Change party's conference to map out an election manifesto, Tsvangirai said thousands of political activists have been victims of police brutality since 1999 when he formed the trade union-based party, the first real challenge to Mugabe's ZANU-PF party since independence from colonial-era rule in 1980.

"We will need justice in this country as well as national healing," he said.

Tsvangirai, 60, produced a 247-page document outlining his party's plans for governing Zimbabwe if it wins the upcoming polls against Mugabe, 89.

The report calls for cuts in spending on the armed forces, saying that current payments are excessive considering Zimbabwe is at peace and faces no military threats.

"The goal of security under ZANU-PF was to perpetuate their rule against domestic resistance ... and seek to undermine the freedom of political choice," the report states.

It proposes the formation of a new Defense Service Commission to monitor the promotion of senior officers and stress what it calls "the primacy of civilian rule."

The report makes no mention of firing military and intelligence commanders who have repeatedly vowed allegiance to Mugabe and have refused to salute Tsvangirai since he became prime minister in the coalition agreement brokered by regional leaders in 2009.

Tsvangirai said that if his party wins the elections "there will be no retribution, those who committed crimes must tell the truth and the truth will set them free."

The nation's new, reformed constitution, which was approved by 95 percent of voters in a March referendum, sets up an independent commission on truth and reconciliation as well as a constitutional court, with greater powers than the existing Supreme Court, to rule on outstanding grievances over a decade of human rights violations. Tsvangirai said that with the new constitution and new policies, his party "will restore dignity to the people."

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