Movement for Democratic Change shadow Minister for Defence Giles Mutsekwa said the military did not trust the MDC as an agent for political change and was at a quandary as to what to do to resolve the country’s economic crisis.
He said government practice of using the military to address all issues and problems had begun to condition the troops to believe that they had the solution to the nation’s problems.
As a result, Mutsekwa said he feared that they might stage a military coup but this would not be in the best interests of the country because once military leaders take power, they don’t give it up.
Mutsekwa said the MDC was trying to convince the military that it represented a political solution in order to forestall this possibility.
He said President Robert Mugabe was aware of the deteriorating morale within the military and had planted “commissars” in the elite units to monitor their activities. This had angered the soldiers and further eroded morale.
Mugabe had also tried to split the higher military echelons from lower-ranking officers and enlisted men by telling the high-ranking officers they were part of the solution and must work with him.
Viewing cable 06HARARE1349, DISCORD IN THE MILITARY
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S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001349
AF/S FOR S. HILL
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B. PITTMAN
USAID FOR M. COPSON AND E. LOKEN
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/17/2011
SUBJECT: DISCORD IN THE MILITARY
REF: HARARE 1308
Classified By: Ambassador Christopher Dell under Section 1.5 b/d
¶1. (C) MDC shadow minister for defense Giles Mutsekwa told
Ambassador November 8 that according to his sources morale
has plummeted at all levels of the military. The military
does not yet view the MDC as a solution to the country’s
problems and may consider a coup, which would not be in the
best interests of the country. Mugabe is aware of military
discontent and has planted “commissars” in elite units to
monitor their activities. Mutsekwa believes some of his high
ranking military contacts would like to meet with USG; he
will look into facilitating such meetings.
¶2. (C) On the political front, Mutsekwa said reunification
of the two MDC factions would strengthen the opposition,
which demonstrated in the recent rural council elections that
it could compete with ZANU-PF in rural areas. However, to
beat ZANU-PF in national elections, a reunified MDC would
also need to build institutions to get out the vote. He
added that the MDC continues to believe a mass uprising is
possible. End Summary.
¶3. (C) Mutsekwa again confirmed, as he had earlier with
polchief (ref), that his sources in the military had told him
that senior military officials had urged Mugabe to step aside
because of the perilous economic situation in the country and
its effect on the military, including deteriorating morale.
The president had deflected these officers and morale at all
levels was continuing to plummet.
¶4. (C) The Ambassador queried whether this was true of the
Presidential Guard and the Paratroop and Command regiments
which constitute the National Reaction Force and are
generally thought to be the best trained, cared for and most
loyal units of the defense forces. Mutsekwa responded that
the commanding officer of the Guard comes from his home
village and they frequently converse. The commander told him
there was growing discontent with the Guard * as well as
other elite units * and should the MDC stage a large
demonstration, defense forces might not intervene. Mugabe is
suspicious of disloyalty and has positioned “commisars” in
the elite units to monitor their activities, which has
angered the soldiers and further eroded morale. At the same
time, he has tried to split the higher military echelons from
lower-ranking officers and enlisted men, all of whom would
like change, by telling the high-ranking officers they are
part of the solution and must work with him.
¶5. (C) Mutsekwa stated that the military is not confident in
the MDC as an agent of political change and is in a quandary
as to what to do. The recent government practice of using
the military to address all issues and problems has begun to
condition the troops to believe that they do indeed have the
solution to the nation’s problems. As a result, Mutsekwa
said he fears a coup may be a greater possibility than
before. This would not be in the best interests of the
country. Once African military leaders take power, they
HARARE 00001349 002 OF 002
don’t give it up. Mutsekwa said the MDC is trying to
convince the military that it represents a political solution
in order to forestall this possibility.
¶6. (S/NF) Mutsekwa reiterated (ref) that several of his
high-level contacts would like to meet with USG
representatives outside of Zimbabwe. The Ambassador
responded that we would look at such a request should it be
made through Mutsekwa’s good offices.
¶7. (C) Mutsekwa said the two MDC factions have separate
caucuses, but have cooperated well in parliament, which has
not been meeting lately due to lack of funds. He said
reunification of the party is important for future electoral
success. The recent rural council elections in Manicaland
and elsewhere demonstrated that the MDC can compete in rural
areas. However, there was confusion in areas where both MDC
factions fielded candidates * a unified MDC would obviously
correct this. Additionally, ZANU-PF was able to use the
governmental machinery to get out the vote and the MDC needs
to develop mechanisms to mobilize its electoral supporters.
¶8. (C) The Ambassador commented that the MDC appears to have
had less success recently in promoting demonstrations and
wondered if new strategies had emerged at the MDC’s
(anti-Senate faction) executive session last weekend.
Mutsekwa responded that the recent spate of small
demonstrations was the result of collaboration between the
MDC and some of the civil society groups involved. These
demonstrations are challenging the government and creating
fear on its part. Mutsekwa added he was confident the MDC
would be the catalyst for a mass uprising in the future.
¶9. (C) Mutsewka’s reports of military disquiet jibe with what
we have been hearing elsewhere. The emerging pattern –
efforts of high-ranking officers to get Mugabe to step aside,
morale problems at all ranks, disaffection in the enlisted
ranks with their leadership, and rumors of coups ) all
suggest that Mugabe can no longer take for granted that the
military will automatically do his bidding. We are probably
some distance yet from a situation in which they take matters
into their own hands, but the erosion of their loyalty has
set in and has begun to be a constraining factor that Mugabe
has not faced previously.