By Gift Phiri and Wendy Muperi
HARARE – The Zimbabwean army is disillusioned and will not support the generals’ threat to ensure President Robert Mugabe clings to power if he loses the forthcoming presidential election, according to a former colonel and a government minister.
Giles Mutsekwa, secretary for defence in Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC, yesterday blasted a recent claim by Martin Chedondo, Zimbabwe’s Defence Forces Chief of Staff, that the military would not recognise any leader who did not participate in the war.
The claim was designed specifically to unsettle Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the mainstream MDC, who is expected to square off with Mugabe in a watershed forthcoming election.
Mutsekwa said his comments were personal except for the few generals who have openly declared their allegiance, Mutsekwa said the entire defence workforce did not buy into the coup plot.
“My phone got so busy soon after Chedondo addressed the troops in Mutoko,” Mutsekwa told the Daily News.
“They were dissociating themselves from his statements. The troops said if he had given them the chance to speak, they would have told him how unprofessional he was. What you can deduce from this is that, these generals do not have the following of the army, they are mere personal statements and people should never construe them as collective.”
Army spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Alphias Makotore and Colonel Overson Mugwisi both refused to immediately comment on the revelations, and asked the Daily News to put questions in writing saying they wanted to consult before responding.
Chedondo told 3 000 soldiers from 2 Brigade undergoing a battlefield training exercise in Mutoko in June that all soldiers should support Zanu PF.
The chief of staff and a few other elite officers have benefited hugely from Mugabe’s patronage, but at the level of colonel and brigadier and below, the support dwindles, according to Mutsekwa.
In the last elections, held in 2008, a number of constituencies with large military garrisons voted against Mugabe. Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, secretary-general of Welshman Ncube’s MDC, said threats by the security chiefs to subvert the will of the people will leave them exposed.
She said what the generals were saying was not a true reflection of the attitude of the entire army personnel.
Mutsekwa said the heads of the army and security forces, the vital cog in an elaborate strategy that has kept Mugabe, 88, in power after Tsvangirai handed the former guerrilla leader his biggest defeat four years ago, are assured their services will not be terminated, and the change in the regime will only be in the State’s superstructure not the bureaucracy and the securocracy.
“Unlike what some press statements say that MDC and defence forces are categorically at loggerheads, we have always been very clear from the start the MDC wants to change the political administration, which is Zanu PF, through the ballot,” Mutsekwa said.
“Because we have never had an axe to grind with the security forces, after the next elections, we will adopt the structure hook, stock and barrel. Those who feel they can’t serve under the MDC dispensation, we will certainly give them a healthy golden handshake,” he said.
Analysts say Mugabe is banking on these commanders to fight next year’s elections amid complaints by the MDC that already, there have been troop deployments to rural areas.
There are also mounting concerns that Mugabe’s political forces were regrouping and re-strategising to pummel the population into submission through violence, the MDC says. There are suggestions of a split in the top echelons of the security forces, but there is nothing on the ground to suggest that. Daily News
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