HARARE – President Robert Mugabe last night issued an order instructing security forces off Zimbabwe’s embattled fourth census.
Acting minister of Finance Gorden Moyo told the Daily News late yesterday Mugabe had sent the circular to confirm an earlier Cabinet decision to bar soldiers and members of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) from taking over the population enumeration.
“The Office of the President and Cabinet has sent out an urgent circular to all ministries concerned to make sure the decision to bar the military from the population census is complied with,” said Moyo.
“We will not deviate, we will not budge from the position that has been taken and all ministers in the security cluster have received the communication from the President.
“This one is a process of demilitarising, professionalising or technocratising the population census if you like but I can assure you as long as I am minister we will have a credible census, so we expect the responsible ministers to communicate the decision to the relevant command Mugabe kicks out soldiers structures,” he said.
Moyo added that he was last night still trying to talk to Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, State Security minister Sydney Sekeramayi and the co-ministers of Home Affairs Theresa Makone and Kembo Mohadi to enforce the decree.
Uniformed forces have openly defied a government directive to de-militarise the process that has so far been stalled by riotous officers who disrupted training workshops for enumerators around the country for a second day running.
In other parts of the country such Karoi, the situation was so volatile that security forces moved to evict teachers from official accommodation they were supposed to use during the census period.
Earlier Moyo had told the Daily News; “Cabinet concurred with us that the census for 2012 shall follow tradition. Teachers will form the bulk of enumerators and the army and other security personnel have a very limited role, which is to protect the enumerators and the material involved. That position was confirmed by Cabinet and that is now government position,” said Moyo.
He said Mugabe chaired the Cabinet meeting which endorsed this position. Asked what government would do if uniformed forces continued defying the government position, Moyo said that will be Mugabe’s “fish to fry” as the commander-in-chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.
“Government gave a directive to the ministries of Defence, State Security, and the co-ministers of Home Affairs, to make sure that the decision is followed. It is now up to the commander-in-chief to issue an order because he is part of Cabinet. He is bound by the Cabinet decision. If there is a violation of the decision then the president should intervene,” said Moyo.
The army wants 10 000 soldiers to be part of the 31 000 enumerators. But government only approved just over 1 500 officers from the army, state intelligence, Zimbabwe Prison Service (ZPS) and the police.
The ministry of Finance, which is in charge of the process through the national statistical body Zimstats, said it has allocated 292 slots to ZPS, 541 to the police, 467 to the Zimbabwe Defence Forces and 267 to the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO). However, the rank and file of the army are adamant more should be included.
They want a piece of the cake where other civil servants are expected to make an $800 windfall in 10 days, thrice the amount that most of the poorly paid government workers get per month.
Training of enumerators was supposed to start at various centres around the country yesterday but was abandoned after soldiers and police disrupted the proceedings. Civil servants in Goromonzi claimed that about 100 soldiers stormed Goromonzi High school where the training of the enumerators was taking place and stopped proceedings.
“We were in the middle of training when about 100 soldiers walked in and ordered the programme to stop. This happened in front of police officers,” said a civil servant who is part of the enumerators. At Tongwe High school in Beitbridge, police Support Unit members descended on the school and ordered those waiting to be trained to leave.
“We were chased off by members of the Support Unit group under the leadership of one Dinha. He said he had been send by his commander. There had been a promise yesterday by the assistant district administrator, Peter Moyo, that everything had been resolved and training would proceed today (yesterday) at 8am but when they came, they were threatening everyone and we had to pack up in haste,” a teacher from the border town told the Daily News.
The Daily News visited Girls High School in central Harare which was deserted and still cordoned off by “police officers.” The situation was no better in Karoi. The army and intelligence caused near-chaos yesterday and today told Zimstats officials they could not proceed with training until they are allocated the majority of posts.
“Here at Chikangwe High school they budged into a training session after we had started and ordered everyone to leave,” an official in Karoi said. Efforts to get comment from Mnangagwa and Sekeramayi were fruitless. Makone said the police and the army have no role to play in the process.
Teachers unions on Monday said they would pull out their members if the chaos by uniformed forces continued.
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