Why there can never be a coup in Zimbabwe


Noyes argues that supporting Mugabe and ZANU-PF has paid off for many senior security officials.

“As a reward for their loyalty, Mugabe has given security sector officials high-level positions throughout the state and party. Mugabe also granted the military and other security sector officials access to lucrative, illicit sources of revenue, such as the Marange diamond fields.

“Since 2006, the military and police have enriched themselves through illegal mining and trading, while in the process being implicated in widespread human rights abuses. This wealth has further bound the military to Mugabe.”

He also argues that Mugabe’s position as commander in chief and the respect for chain of command in Zimbabwe bolster his control.

“As argued by Tendi, Mugabe maintains effective control over the military through his powers as commander in chief. Zimbabwe stringently adheres to the chain of command, which grew out of ZANU-PF practices during the liberation war.

“Mugabe has the power to hire and fire his service chiefs, who serve on one-year contracts. This balance of power in Zimbabwe has proved strikingly resilient, remaining intact through independence and up to the present, despite recent emerging splits in Zimbabwe’s security apparatus.”

Noyes says that when he asked Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa, if the military has ever been in control in Zimbabwe,  he said: “That is not true, that is the perception but is not true.”

Noyes believes, however, that the risk of a coup increases if Mugabe dies or leaves office.

“Of course the security sector is not a monolithic actor and divides exist. Indeed, just last week police and soldiers clashed in Harare.

“The findings presented here suggest that despite Mugabe’s complaints, as long as he remains alive and firmly in power, a military coup will remain an unlikely event in Zimbabwe.

“If Mugabe dies in office or passes the reins to a successor, however, the chances of a coup could increase significantly, especially if the winning candidate does not enjoy support from the military, such as his wife Grace.

“In this scenario, with Mugabe no longer on the scene, Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General Constantine Chiwenga or others may choose to step in and install Mnangagwa, a fellow liberation war veteran, or another leader who will secure their interests.”

Ed: Read a contrary view here


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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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