Bennett, Jestina Mukoko - What Is Really Going On?

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai congratulates Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa soon after he was sworn in by Mugabe

LATEST ROY BENNETT UPDATE: MONDAY 16 FEBRUARY 2009 06:30P.M.: Roy Bennett's court appearance has been postponed to Tuesday because prosecutors, supposedly coming from Harare, failed to show up. Although the MDC is now in charge of Home Affairs (their minister goes first at the ministry according to the agreement), the police managed to get a warrant from Home Affairs authorising them to detain Bennett for longer than the 48 hours allowed by law before the prisoner has to be either released or taken to court.

In the last few days, I have been contacted by the BBC, Al Jazeera and others seeking a better understanding of what on earth is going on in Zimbabwe. On BBC World Service, I took part in a discussion with Basildon Peta, the Zimbabwe journalist now exiled in South Africa, Eleanor Sisulu (who constantly lives up to her Rooseveltian name) and Jenni Wiliams, probably the most courageous woman in Zimbabwe at the moment (no scratch that, the most courageous person in Zimbabwe is more like it).

I also delivered a speech and fielded questions at Denver University on the day that Ethan Zuckerman's incredible online project, Global Voices, got an award from the institution. (I write for Global Voices by the way and am their Zimbabwe correspondent.)

Most of this took place before the arrest of Bennet but what puzzled people everywhere I spoke was why Jestina Mukoko and others remained in jail even though Tsvangirai was now Prime Minister.

Now Roy Bennett has been arrested and the world is also agog. Puzzled voices are asking why on earth the Prime Minister continues to take all this lying down. They had built an image of him as an uncompromising, stubborn man who was giving Mugabe a run for his money at every turn.

Well, what we are witnessing now is simply fulfilment of the strategy that we have laid down here as coming from Mugabe's ZANU PF. I told you some months back that the two options Mugabe was pursuing were as follows:

  • In the case of Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC resfusing to take part in the government, the strategy involving the State of Emergency would be kicked into place. The banditry charges against Mukoko and others would be widened to take in even more people. The idea is to so paralyse the MDC that, come next elections, Mugabe would walk back into power. The soldiers who "mutinied" and who have now been "pardoned" according to the State Media, would have had a prominent role to play , accusing the MDC of having paid them to stage the mutiny as a precursor to a general insurgency.
  • The second option was in place for a case where Tsvangirai accepts to go into government. I explained this in a couple of articles on this blog going back to October last year. This second option, as I put it back then is to ISOLATE Morgan Tsvangirai. I used the words "stranded in office."
So, the MDC has joined government and that plan is now being implemented. It does not help, of course, that in spite of my detailed explanation of the strategy on this blog, Morgan Tsvangirai has fallen for the very tricks I forewarned about.

There are two things at play here: First and quite obvious is Mugabe's hatred of white farmers in Zimbabwe. Mugabe's bitterness at what he calls "the spurning of my hand of reconciliation by Rhodesians" has to be seen to be believed. Bennett is first and foremost a victim of that hatred.

But more importantly, (and this is the point of this exercise) the job of getting Morgan Tsvangirai stranded in power has already begun with this arrest, and we will see more to follow. Within an hour or so of Bennett being arrested at Charles Prince Airport, (he had been warned of an arrest warrant and was about to flee the country to South Africa) I told you in an article here that he was being driven by Military Intelligence guys to Mutare. The fact that it was Military Intelliegence behind this was later confirmed by the MDC, which (together with others reporting on the "abduction of Bennett) had initially said he was being driven away by CIO or Law and Order police.

This I mention to show you that, despite the tripe Morgan Tsvangirai is being fed by Mugabe (and he is swallowing it), this action is under the direction of the president. He knows what's up and he knows what he is doing.

The thing is, although the secret police still carries some dread value with the people, Mugabe has long since lost faith in them. This goes back to March last year and the entrance of Simba Makoni into the race for the presidency.

The CIO has lost the ear of the president, who now relies for covert operations on Military Intelligence, The Presidential Guard and something known as the "Flying Squad."

The Director of the CIO was fired by Mugabe late last year and only reinstated after the direct intercession of General Chiwengwa, the Head of the Combined Defence Forces.

The involvement of Military Intelligence, therefore, carries special meaning here. It means, while Tsvangirai is busy defending Mugabe and swallowing the line that there are hardliners in the military who are opposed to the deal, the president is busy actively ring-fencing Tsvangirai.

By assuring Tsvangirai that he himself has nothing to fear, that people under him had been planning an insurgency and banditry without his knowledge and involvement as president of the MDC, Mugabe has managed, just as I said all those months back, to wrap Tsvangirai around his little finger.

The Prime Minister, in defending the president on Friday, said that he will be working together with Mugabe "as the leadership" to try and overcome the resistance of some ZANU PF hardliners whom he did not name.

In time, the Prime Minister will be taken into the confidence of the Generals, to be shown "evidence" that is compelling, "exposing" how some of the people in his own party have been plotting an armed insurgency behind his back. They will seek to make him one of their own, to give the impression of now having some respect and trust in him.

Almost certainly, the Prime Minister will fall for it, just as he has fallen for Mugabe's "I am a victim of my own hardliners" joke." His little diversionary tactic, putting forward more names for the Ministry than he was allowed, worked a treat, becoming the centre of attention at State House even as Bennet was arrested, an event that should have seen the ceremony cancelled and a crisis meeting with SADC called (they are the "Guarantors" of this two headed monster, after all. But they guarantee ment nothing on this, the first test that should have been used by Morgan Tsvangirai to raise a red flag.

The ring-fencing started last week. The Prime Minister has agreed to jettison his own bodyguard in favour of Close Protection Officers provided by Mugabe. Everything he does, every meeting he holds, his conversations and discussions, are they safe? Will they not be getting back to Mugabe? I know how close protection works. You can not go to the bathroom without being accompanied, just outside your office door, hearing your every conversation, inside your house......

In fact, CPU guys will tell you what to do when "for your own protection." You have to listen to them if you have accepted them, full stop. They will tell you what you can and can not do from a security viewpoint. It is never a good idea to piss them off. They have your life in their hands.

Which means, Mugabe now has Tsvangirai's life in his hands.

I call it imprisonment by other means.

The assault on the MDC, like I said in November last year, will continue even after the MDC joins government. On Tuesday, the traditional day of cabinet meetings under Mugabe, the new ministers will sit around the wooden desk in the Cabinet Room at Munhumutapa Building to start dealing with the business of "governing", while one of their number, Bennett, sits on the floor of an overcrowded police cell, Jestina Mukoko and her fellow inmates, whisked back to jail against medical advice, still sitting at Chikurubi Maximum Security prison.

The question no one can answer is whether Biti and Tsvangirai will find it easy to leave the trappings of power and office as their party faces Mugabe's assault? Will they find it easier to hide behind "the law" and phantom "hardliners" bent on "destroying the agreement" to leave their former colleagues to swing in the wind?

One thing is certain though: journalists, exiled professionals (including Bankers) and other victims of Mugabe who have fled Zimbabwe will not find comfort in these events.

If the MDC's participation in this government can not guarantee the safety of the opposition party's own Treasurer and senior official, what chance is there that a journalist wanted in Zimbabwe "for broadcasting illegally" will come back home and be safe?

It is a very valid observation to say that things will change in this country only for the people who remain in cabinet, the Tsvangirai's, Biti's. None of them can do a thing to protect their top-level people, what more the footsoldiers of the MDC, the organisers and party activists who will soon be sucked into this banditry case as Mugabe seks to isolate Tsvangirai to get him stranded in office?

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  1. Tsvangirai's predicament reminds me a lot of that of Prince Norodom Sihanouk, back when he was the well meaning-but effectively neutered-front man for Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. I don't think that anyone would argue that Sihanouk was a bad man, and yet.... he filled a propaganda role for a very bad bubch of people. Tsvangirai is doing much the same thing, probably (like Sihanouk) because he's gotten in over his head.

  2. The team I want to praise you for a good analytical article that you have written above, I believe in giving credit were credit is due. It is such analytical minds that we need in government to counter Mugabe and his Zanu PF's unethical strategies to stay in power by whatever means. Pity that you are not part of this coalition government or should I say fortunate enough you are not part of such a union veiled in dishonesty by one of the parties and gullibility by the other. We hope that in the next democratic elections you would have developed Mavambo party to such an extend that it wins the elections and takes over the running of this country.


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