Mugabe is still the boss


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The argument that Zimbabwe’s military is calling the shots has been harped on since the March 29 elections. The argument says Mugabe would have stepped down when his Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) lost its parliamentary majority and Mugabe himself won fewer votes in the presidential race than opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai had it not been for the military.

Even his wife, the extravagant Grace Mugabe, was reported to have persuaded him to step down gracefully. But the military leaders through the Joint Operations Command (JOC) told him to stay on to save their own interests.

The argument makes good reading. After all, former defence forces chief Vitalis Zvinavashe made it abundantly clear just before the 2002 presidential elections that the army would never salute anyone without liberation credentials.

The same threat was repeated by the current defence forces chief Constantine Chiwenga just before the March elections. This was a direct challenge to Tsvangirai who does not have liberation credentials. The military could therefore not allow him to rule.

But the argument is very hollow. It may have been deduced from a fact, as stated by Zvinavashe and Chiwenga, but it is not backed by anything else, including history. ZANU-PF has always comprised the political and military wings, namely ZANU as the party with the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) as its military wing.

The two have always worked together but ZANLA was a creation of ZANU. The military got their orders from the politicians. It has never been the other way round. It does not therefore make sense to say Robert Mugabe, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, the first secretary and president of the ruling party, is now taking orders from his lieutenants.

It is an exercise in self-delusion driven by the denial that after 28 years in office and at 84 Mugabe still has any political clout. Though highly unpopular now especially because of the way he forced Tsvangirai out of the presidential race and the way he beat up people to win the presidential elections, Mugabe is still in command. He is not being held to ransom by anyone.

It is only a paranoiac media and sceptical public that has created the myth that Mugabe has lost his clout. Far from it, he is still the boss. If he had, he would have been kicked out as party president at the special congress in December last year. The purpose of that special congress was to elect a new party leadership but the plan flopped, showing that Mugabe and those behind him were still in control.

Those who were disgruntled with the outcome of the congress came up with the “Simba Makoni” project which was a total flop.

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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