Security forces placed on high alert countrywide
By Tichaona Sibanda
13 January 2009
The regime on Monday formally ordered the country’s armed forces to be placed on high alert ‘to prevent the MDC from staging a coup’.
Acting deputy information minister Bright Matongo said the military and police were searching for weapons and ‘suspicious’ people who may be preparing for war. He alleged the MDC were recruiting youths to use as bandits to destabilize the country and topple the regime.
But the MDC’ secretary for security and intelligence, Giles Mutsekwa, rubbished the regime’s allegations and said the move to place troops on high alert had various interpretations linked to internal wrangles within ZANU PF.
He explained the regime wanted to create an impression that the country is going to be ungovernable ‘as the MDC was training insurgents ready to destabilise the country,’ although no one buys that story anymore.
‘What we know obtaining on the ground at the moment is that there is a hell of a lot of infighting within ZANU PF, people are scrambling for power. They don’t trust each other and that is their own problem,’ Mutsekwa said.
Reports from Harare on Tuesday suggested Robert Mugabe cut short his holiday trip on receiving a special report from his close security intelligence services of a plan to topple him.
The report added that a huge amount of arms and ammunition went missing from Inkomo Barracks, the country’s biggest armoury, and that another armoury at 2 Brigade Cranborne Barracks was burgled and left empty. It has been impossible to confirm these reports.
It has been confirmed by the state media that on arrival back home Mugabe removed Vice President Joseph Msika from the position of acting President and immediately appointed Vice President Joyce Mujuru, amid unconfirmed reports that Emmerson Mnangagwa was planning to topple him.
Asked to comment about these allegations Mutsekwa, who is also the MDC MP for Chikanga-Dangamvura in Mutare, said the whole issue of the ‘coup story’ hinges on mistrust among the top hierarchy of ZANU PF.
‘Why I say so is because we (MDC) don’t believe in violence and we have vowed to ourselves and supporters that we will assume the reins of power through the ballot box. If there’s going to be violence or a coup, its going to come from ZANU PF. There is a lot of dissatisfaction within the security forces and this could explain why the regime is jittery,’ Mutsekwa added.
Uniformed soldiers have recently caused mayhem in Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare, and Masvingo by running amok, beating up people and looting from shops, after failing to withdraw their salaries from banks.
These incidents underline the deep discontent within Mugabe’s 25,000-strong army. Mugabe’s generals are seen as deeply loyal to the 84-year-old leader, but the rank-and-file troops are subject to the hardships ordinary Zimbabweans endure in the country’s rapidly worsening crisis.
This weekend in Chitungwiza, a group of rowdy soldiers assaulted informal traders and stole their wares and money. Zimonline reported that the uniformed soldiers went berserk at the Makoni shopping centre in Zengeza, saying they were incensed that informal traders were selling basic commodities in forex without ‘authorisation’ from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
To pacify the top military brass the regime is reportedly paying top army officers’ salaries in foreign currency. Commissioned officers from the rank of colonel, up to the commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF), started receiving their salaries in hard currency in December with the lowest paid taking home US$2,000 per month, according to NewZimbabwe.com
Mutsekwa also said; ‘They have a tremendous capability for self-destruction and this is their fear. It is possible a potential successor is busy courting senior members of the military and since ZANU PF is riven with factions, the troop deployment was ordered as a pre-emptive strategy to silence or stop would be coup plotters.’
The country is in economic meltdown, with hyperinflation at world record quadrillions, the currency almost valueless, nearly 4 million people facing famine, the country’s urban areas stricken by an unchecked cholera epidemic and services like schools and hospitals shut. The state of the country’s failure was underlined in December by the complete breakdown of water supplies to the capital’s estimated 2 million people.