Zimbabwe Defence Forces: The Trouble We Are In

The armed forces in Zimbabwe, heavily factionalised like ZANU PF, now simply consider Tsvangirai leader of just another faction vying to replace Mugabe when the time comes. It explains their hostility towards him because he at first did not realise this at all and thought that their resistance was based on his electoral success. Instead, not one amongst the armed forces leaders thinks Tsvangirai has a chance of actually assuming the presidency but they believe he would be useful to have in their camp if he can bring his followers along with him, thereby giving whatever faction his chooses a semblance of mass support. It is a dangerous game that shows just what trouble we are in

Harare, Zimbabwe 27 August 2009

The Zimbabwe Defence Forces are heavily factionalised and it is by no means a foregone conclusion that, should anything happen to Mugabe, the army will fall in behind a single successor.

This was revealed to me in detail yesterday after an interview I did with SW Radio regarding the story I broke on this blog about Mugabe's medical trip to Dubai.

The factions within the armed forces mirror those within ZANU PF itself. For example, last year in February, when Simba Makoni jettisoned the party to launch a challenge to Mugabe's hold on the presidency of Zimbabwe, senior army commanders and officers loyal to the Mujuru faction issued instructions for General Mujuru, Zimbabwe's first black Defence Forces Commander and the man who put Mugabe where he is in 1975, to be put under 24 hour surveillance.

Within two days, however, 17 senior armed forces officers met with Mujuru at his farm and explained to him that this is what they had been requested to do. Their message to him was: "We will not do it. But we thought you should know, because junior people have been forced to carry out the instructions."

You will recall that at the time, Mugabe told The Herald, the main State daily newspaper and Zimbabwe Television that Mujuru had come to tell him that he was not behind Makoni's bid, insisting that, with his wife as Vice-president in ZANU PF, it would be unthinkable for him to do that.

Mugabe's death, therefore, will unleash these factional loyalties as people jostle for positions. Even within ZANU PF itself, there is fear that this country will then be plunged into a Somalia-type scenario, with various armed forces factions claiming territories to rule and putting up their choice as the civilian head.

In Somalia, warlords for years controlled specific areas, regions and cities depending on where they came from. They collected taxes and effectively ran mini-governments in those areas where they entrenched themselves to the extent that not even the USA under Bill Clinton, which sent forces in there to restore order, could make any headway.

The same is now feared for Zimbabwe and the risk is extremely real.

Of course, do not expect that Zimbabweans will take any of this seriously. For some reason, my countrymen seem to think that no lesson applies to them, always trotting out the same retort that "Zimbabwe is different" or that "That era is long gone, this is the 21st century."

Even as some of us warned in September last year that Morgan Tsvangirai risked going the way of Joshua Nkomo and being swallowed by Mugabe's flattery and mischief, these excuses were trotted out.

Where are we now? MDC-T itself is now unhappy with Tsvangirai's quiet diplomacy towards Mugabe, with several of his own Executive questioning whether he has been "bought off".

It was the same with the land issue, where we were told that Mugabe "would not dare do such a thing as forcibly acquire land" because "he knows what will happen."

That, also is now just part of history.

But what it does is lead people into a false comfort zone, where they fail to come up with proper strategies to counter what is clearly imminent, in the hope that it will somehow all just "go away".

So strong is the animosity towards each other by these factions that even Mugabe himself realises just what he has done in failing to resolve the succession issue.

The more worrying thing about all this, however, is the fact that, as we speak now, these same factions are vying for control of mineral resources like diamonds and gold.

Only last week, I revealed to you how the defence forces are using third parties to sell loose diamonds on the world market. Others are in control of gold fields (not so widely publicised).

Which also explains why this country is failing to benefit of these resources.
The fear then is that proceeds from these minerals are being hoarded by individuals and factions in preparation for the funding of their own ambitions when the time comes.

Of course, personal nests are being feathered in the process, but that is only a "by-the-way".

Mugabe remains at the apex of the governance structure in Zimbabwe only because he has not clearly and unequivocally settled on an heir whom the entire party can rally behind. This keeps the ambitions in check, as each faction thinks: "It could be us."

Now, the same armed forces are, as I told you a few months back, now saying Tsvangirai is part of the game. "Tsvangirai is now just leader of another faction fighting to succeed Mugabe within th context of ZANU PF politics."

For him to do this, he has to play the ZANU PF political game as well, which is why you see him meeting with Mnangagwa, Mujuru and others in an effort to try and see where he fits in.

But it is a dangerous game, because these same ZANU PF factions cold easily play up his cosiness with any one of the factions to destroy him and his ambitions.

What is certain is that Tsvangirai has also now realised that ZANU PF politics and factionalism is the only game in town, which he has to play in order to be a contender.

The only question is whether he is up to the task.


  1. For Zimbabwe to fall into a "Somalia-type scenario" could lead to your country's further devastation, I am sure. War lords have greed, self-interest and corruption. Natural resources like diamonds and gold could be used to prosper those who are corrupt while the populous suffers. It is a frightening scenario.


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