Robert 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 Mugabeâ€™s powers and are running Zimbabwe in his stead is erroneous. True, the country is being run by a military junta â€” but Mugabe is firmly in place as its head. This is a symbiotic relationship â€” with both sides giving and receiving in equal measure.
Mugabeâ€™s generals have no standing in Africa, and they know it very well. They have no standing in the world. They are shadowy figures â€” many Zimbabweans donâ€™t even know who they are. The regional body, 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 AU.
But they donâ€™t need to declare an out-and-out 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 United Nationsâ€™ FAO conference in Rome, during the crucial run-up period to the June 27 presidential election. He is not even bothering to campaign â€” the generals are doing that for him. Robert 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 needs them 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 â€” in effect the junta â€” Emmerson Mnangagwa, has been Mugabeâ€™s right-hand man, personal assistant, trusted confidant and hit man since way back in the 1970s when they were in Mozambique together during the struggle for independence. He has been at Mugabeâ€™s side ever since â€” 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. Their 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.
Mnangagwa and air force commander Perence Shiri presided over the mass killings of the then opposition Zapu activists in Matabeleland in the early 1980s. Make no mistake about it, Mugabe and his close-knit clique generals are working hand in glove. It is a macabre marriage of convenience. â€” The Guardian