Why Mugabe Will Never Face A Coup

Perhaps it is important at this point to explain to the world just why Mugabe will never face a coup by his military. There is talk in the news today from Jendayi Fraser about the possibility of a coup and she is careful to say it would happen if the dictator dies in office.

Fraser's statement is breathtakingly ill-informed for a top US diplomat, whom I'd expect to be a more informed about the structure of ZANU PF. A coup, Ms Fraser, after Mugabe's death is well-nigh impossible because of the way Mugabe has integrated the armed forces into structures of his party.

A coup would be likely if the army were a separate entity in Zimbabwe, whose interests are protected by Mugabe personally. Yes, this is the case in most dictatorships, but not in this new creature that has sprouted in Zimbabwe. Mugabe's dictatorship is perhaps the first since Adolf Hitler's to be a purely intellectual and ideological dictatorship. The closest approximation to it in modern times would be Red China.

But the unlikelihood of a coup in Zimbabwe comes down to two things:

1. The military leadership and officer corps (the military classes most able to carry out a classic coup) in Zimbabwe have been so integrated into the ruling party that their interests no longer lie with the army, but with the party. They are more likely to coalesce around a new consensus leader (there is an heir apparent, virtually anointed, who is already courting the military establishment). This they will do because SADC is very clear on one point: military coups are not tolerated in the region.

In fact, the established tradition in the region now is that, should a military coup occur in a member state, then that is enough cause for that state to be invaded by its neighbours and the military junta ejected from office.

There is nothing the military in Zimbabwe today could get from a coup after Mugabe that they could not get from supporting a new leader of ZANU PF. Which is something that is so self-evident that I am shocked the US diplomat misreads the situation so badly. This is the same mentality that has led Zimbabweans to give up the fight, saying Mugabe will die eventually, then we will all sing hallelujah.

It is a case of the world, all of us, believing our own hype that it's Mugabe and only Mugabe. If he goes all is well with Zimbabwe. Well, it is not. A new leader would emerge and the army would protect its interests by simply forming a protective guard around him. That's the first point.

2. This also has to do with the wild speculation of a mutiny in relation to the staged protests by the army earlier this month. Essentially, Mugabe has made a point of ensuring that the military leaders and officer corps don't trust each other. Just as with his ministers and his so-called potential successors, Mugabe plays them off against each other.

He will directly call in a Brigadier, meet with him alone in his office or at home, or pick on a Colonel whom he will also entertain. The army commanders, the officer corps, all of them, then tend to be in a state on perpetual uncertainty. They have no idea what these officers, colonels and brigadiers discuss with Mugabe one-on-one. Suspicion sets in. 

BASICALLY, MUGABE PLAYS DIVIDE AND RULE WITH THE ARMY. It is the same with his party and its his way of doing business, very calculated. ZANU PF is disunited today because Mugabe wants it that way.As long as one faction thinks it has the chance of taking over the party, they will not join with the other to dislodge him, and so he escapes. Again and again.

When you hear Mugabe pleading with ZANU PF to "remain united", he really does not mean it. It serves him for it to be divided, and we, watching from the sidelines, cheer the dictator's party's "disunity", just as we cheered the "mutiny" - none the wiser. In fact, all Mugabe will be asking is for them to unite behind him.

Mugabe speaks to those in ZANU PF who are eyeing his seat and counsels patience. Each is told that Mugabe must first sort out the party, unite it, strengthen it and then, "I will hand you a party that is united behind you." 

It is the same approach with the army. All retired army generals are now senators or members of parliament. They know that, in the event of a coup, only one would be president. But, letting the current system run, they could, and most probably will, end up in cabinet. 

The army officers can not even trust each other with their honest feelings about the state of the country, they never know who it is that will be next to be found on a railway junction, riddled with bullet holes, yet described as having died from a head-on collision with a goods train.

Too many informers, too much suspicion. Just as every Zimbabwean today suspects anyone who does not see things from their point of view as an enemy, either a CIO or an MDC plant or whatever, so it is with the army. Mugabe has succesully moulded Zimbabweans into a people ruled by suspicion and fear of their own shadows. Just voicing the wrong sentiments, even in private, could be fatal, so everyone thinks. Anyone could be CIO, so everyone thinks. And Mugabe likes it that way.

All their cellphones are bugged, their homes are bugged, their cars are bugged. There is a specially trained unit of the secret police, the CIO, which follows them constantly and writes daily reports. They all know this. Mugabe exercises the same hypnotic hold over his army leaders and office corps as Hitler did during the first year of the Second World War.

Stop pinning your hopes on that one, try coming up with realistic solutions to solve the Zimbabwe issue, as opposed to reinforcing the Zimbabwean "do-nothing-because-he-will-die" syndrome. 


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