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Sunday, 30 November 2008

Mutiny in the ranks

Is Mugabe's mighty army about to fall apart?

The question of whether the latest reports of a possible power-sharing agreement between Mugabe and Tsvangirai are real or just fanciful became meaningless this week, when signs of violent mutiny amongst the armed forces were seen on the streets of the Zimbabwe capital, Harare.

For the first time since Independence, the army, for so long Mugabe's strong and oppressive right arm, is visibly breaking ranks, turning against its commanders, and demonstrating that it will no longer tolerate current conditions and pay.

This weekend bands of dissident soldiers took to the streets of Harare in an orgy of robbery, beatings and violent confrontations with the police riot squads - something that has never been known in living memory.

The first signs of trouble were witnessed last Thursday, when soldiers from Inkomo Barracks, in full uniform, who had queued all day at a branch of the ZABG bank to withdraw local currency, were told that the bank had run out of money.

The announcement only added to the frustration everyone in Zimbabwe feels over the government ruling that a maximum of $Z500,000 may be drawn at any one time - an amount that will scarcely buy more than a stick or two of chewing gum.

The angry soldiers moved into the streets and attacked several illegal dealers in foreign exchange who operate in the area. These dealers always have a ready supply of Zimbabwean dollars, provided to them by the Zimbabwe Reserve Bank in order to buy up foreign exchange, which is then used to finance government and Zanu-PF activities.

I myself saw two middle-aged men being beaten to a bloody pulp by troops, and there were other incidents when dealers handed over their money to the soldiers and ran for their lives.

The soldiers could be heard chanting slogans calling for the death of Gideon Gono, boss of the Reserve Bank. "Gono wanyanyha kuba," they sang. "Tichakuendesa kumakuva mangwana chaiwo." "Gono, your corruption has gone too far. We will send you to the grave soon."

The rioting and robbery continued during Friday, and on Saturday another group, numbering about 70, and also in full uniform, descended on Mupedzanhamo, a popular second-hand market in Mbare, and looted the vendors' goods.

When I went there the market was deserted. But a witness told me: "They went for currency dealers and ordinary stall holders. They looted clothes, shoes, belts, anything they could lay their hands on."

There are other rumours of trouble and mutiny amongst Mugabe's soldiers, including a possible strike, and some analysts are now predicting that if there is a popular rising against Zanu-PF it will be led by the military.

For the moment the solid wall of Mugabe's oppression and terror remains in place. But perhaps, for the first time, cracks are at last beginning to appear.

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Comments

There's no way the government can keep the lid on this any longer. Mass anarchy will develop soon. A hungry soldier is a mutinous soldier. And even though Mugabe would love to see his population cut down to around 3 million, he will have a hard time stopping the looting soldiers from entering his state house, and himself becoming a statistic.

Whilst I don't condone violence one has to be hopeful that maybe this could be the turning point. For too long Zimbo's have waited for the outside world to intervene and yet seem to forget that they rose up once before and fought for independence.

Come on Zim, fight for your lives and freedom again!!!!!!!

Beware and remember how these people in the army have been trained, especially in relation to the recent military suppression of the Zimbabwe population.
It is obvious by their past and recent behaviour, they have a sadistic disregard for the pain or suffering of others. In the event of a possible civil uprising or full scale mutiny it would be very unwise to think or expect the army to be the saviour of the people.

What was that Mr Smith said? "They will b****r it up if they obtain power"?
The surprise is that it has taken some 20 years.
South Africa next.

The biggest surprise is that it has taken this long. As the body bags returning from the Congo pile up, it isn't going to get any better.

I hope it doesn't end up like Kenya.

Oh and prziloczek - very constructive comment, I'm sure you're sitting in the comfort another continent being bitter and twisted about the 'good old days'. The bravery of being out of range.

Besides the unrest in the army, there are other media reports that indicate that something may be about to happen in the near future.
These include an assassination attempt on Dumiso Dabengwa, the forthcoming closure of the Botswana embassy in Harare. Botswana’s Foreign Minister Phandu Skelemani offering asylum to Morgan Tsvangirai. Bombs exploding inside the Harare Central Police station. The resurgence of ZAPU in Matabeleland and finally a last minute attempt by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to persuade Mugabe to share power during a UN development meeting in Doha, Qatar on 30th Nov.

I'm surprised no one has considered that these "mutinous soldiers" may plants by Mugabe and his CIO to create an environment whereby Mugabe can declare marshall law. The GNU becomes null and void, Mugabe and his clique hold on to power, the MDC becomes irrelevant, job done and Mugabe wins again.

It is certainly a possibility JP. IRIN has reported 2nd Dec that Dumiso Dabengwa the former home affairs minister said the disturbances by the army should not be taken at face value as it could be a government 'project'.

Yes, it now appears the whole issue has been orchestrated by ZanuPF. It is confirmed the army is always paid in camp and therefore no reason to obtain cash from city banks.
The exercise is said to be two pronged, one to eradicate street forex dealers and to loot carefully selected shops belonging to owners known to deal in forex and who support MDC.
Secondly, it is being done to create conditions for 'martial law'. According to sources the police are no longer trusted,their clashes with the army are welcome and they give the necessary impression of mayhem in the land.

Mugabe has not exactly rushed back from Doha, I give ZanuPF 90 out of a 100 for this one.

RM, you're on the right track. But I think there is a larger strategy than just declaration of martial law.

The MDC and ZANU-PF are fighting over the ministry of Home Affairs (essentially the police). How can ZANU-PF use this to its advantage?

What happens if the police are cowed by the army? And what happens if martial law or even emergency powers are invoked? Well the army will be on the streets and will reign supreme over the police. It will be complete militarisation.

ZANU-PF will then 'in the national interest' agree to hand over the Home Affairs portfolio to the MDC. Along with a completely demoralised and defunct police force. African politicians will cheer and give Mugabe and Mbeki a pat the back.

And with no meaningful police force, the MDC minister will have no real power to investigate corruption or murder by ZANU-PF. Even if he/she dares to try, the martial law situation will make it easy to shut down any investigation.

You have to wonder why the general press still hasn't picked up on this possible (probable?) scenario and keep banging on about - and I quote from Thursday's Daily Telegraph (UK) - .."So far, the sporadic unrest does not amount to an organised mutiny. But it points to an immensely significant development inside President Robert Mugabe's crumbling domain". The only development is a new strategic approach to dilute the power of any ministries that are reluctantly handed over.

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