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17 Jun 2008 06:00
There’s been no “coup” in Zimbabwe. The relationship between Robert Mugabe and the generals is one of mutual dependence.
Mugabe and his generals are fighting together in a deadly battle for survival that has seen thousands of Zimbabweans brutally beaten and maimed since Zanu-PF lost the March 29 general and presidential elections.
The idea that the military has usurped Mugabe’s powers and is running Zimbabwe in his stead is erroneous.
True, the country is being run by a military junta—but Mugabe is firmly in place as its head.
Mugabe’s generals have no standing in Africa, and they know it. They have no standing in the world. They are shadowy figures—many Zimbabweans don’t even know who they are. The regional body, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), has said it will not countenance any coups among its members. The generals know that if they come out openly and declare a coup they will lose the political backing of SADC and the African Union.
But they don’t need to declare a coup. Mugabe has willingly handed over the country to them. He is so comfortable with them that he left the country for more than a week to attend the Food and Agricultural Organisation conference in Rome, during the crucial run-up period to the June 27 presidential election. He is not even bothering to campaign—the generals are doing that for him.
Mugabe is a well-known brand and it therefore makes sense for the generals to keep him as their figurehead. He knows he has lost popular support and he needs the generals to stay in power. He has been the source of their fabulous, ill-gotten wealth and they need him in order to maintain it.
The head of the joint operations command—in effect the junta—Emmerson Mnangagwa, has been Mugabe’s right-hand man, personal assistant, trusted confidant and hitman since way back in the 1970s when they were in Mozambique together during the struggle for independence.
He has been at Mugabe’s side ever since—for many years minister in charge of the loathed Central Intelligence Organisation.
Even more significantly he has been the treasurer of Zanu-PF for more than 30 years. He is wealthy beyond imagination and feared by everyone, including his closest colleagues.
Over the years he and Mugabe have gathered around them a clique of like-minded military men.
They have all shared in the spoils of power. They own businesses, farms, mines. They grew even more fabulously wealthy during the DRC military campaign. They have a lot to lose.
Mnangagwa and air force commander Perence Shiri presided over the mass killings of the then opposition Zapu activists in Matabeleland in the early 1980s.
The junta’s heartless brutality is in line with the worst tradition of African dictators. The killing fields of Gukurahundi, the senseless destruction of Murambatsvina and the diabolical beatings, burnings and maimings of the past few weeks all bear their personal stamp.
Make no mistake, Mugabe and his generals are working hand in glove. It is a macabre marriage of convenience.—
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