Another target for assassination
As the prospect of election defeat looms for Mugabe, his men target their former comrade-in-arms
The threats against the life of Zimbabwe's opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai may have declined recently, partly due to world-wide warnings that he was in danger. But now another figure, less well known internationally, is looming large in the cross-hairs of Zimbabwe's experienced state assassins.
He is former Zanu-PF politburo member Dumiso Dabengwa, who left the party in February this year when it officially adopted Robert Mugabe as its presidential candidate. Dabengwa now allies himself closely with failed candidate Simba Makoni, who has declared his support for Tsvangirai in the run-off election on June 27.
The reason why the military junta now sustaining Mugabe in power wants Dabengwa dead is this: as former intelligence supremo with the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA), he still retains support amongst army officers and security personel, particularly those from the Matabeleland region.
Junta leaders forese the following scenario: in the event, widely anticipated, that Tsvangirai wins the run-off, they will mount a coup to save their lives and their fortunes. Dabengwa is one of the few men who could stop them.
A high-ranking source within the military establishment, who has had sight of recent Junta minutes, told me this week: "As a former head of ZIPRA, Dabwenga still commands loyalty amongst officers, security operatives, and those who come from Matabeleland. So the junta have decided he must be eliminated before the election."
Other sources confirm this plan - but reveal that, even in the Byzantine world of Zimbabwean power politics, they are going about it in an odd way. They are clearly letting Dabwenga know their intentions.
One told me: "Junior members of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) have been told to follow him, block his journeys, harrass him, visit his home at all hours, and generally threaten him. The idea is to gauge his strengths, see how he reacts to pressure, and identify those he runs to when he is in trouble."
It is understood that if Dabengwa appears relatively powerless he can be taken out with no risk. But if his support is as real and strong as some analysts believe, the assassination plot will be abandoned, and instead attempts will be made to lure the man back to Zanu-PF with offers of a top job.
A close associate of Dabengwa told me: "We have seen their strange movements, we know what they're up to. We should warn them that Mugabe is playing with fire. Touch Mr. Dabengwa, and Zimbabwe will never be the same again."