Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Mugabe seeks revenge on soldiers that rebelled.

Generals loyal to Mugabe are coming down hard on any soldiers who step out of line after an incident which saw junior soldiers rampage across Harare to vent their anger at their suffering in the country's economic collapse.

There are already reports that three of the twelve soldiers who took part in Thursday's riot have been killed.

Mugabe's response is typically heavy handed and seeks to terrify others out of following the soldiers example.

In a clear sign that President Mugabe's hold on his state security machinery is starting to crumble, his once-loyal soldiers ran amok across the capital on Monday after they failed to access their paltry wages in the cash-strapped banks. The unarmed soldiers fought with heavily-armed police and several were arrested.

It was the third outbreak of such violence since last Thursday. The sight of rampaging soldiers was then unprecedented. Army sources said an inquiry had already begun, with dozens facing courts martial.

This response from Mugabe has sent fear through the ranks with many junior soldiers simply failing to report for duty. Mass desertions are now expected.

"Many of them will be kept away from the armouries because of suspicions of disloyalty. They simply won't have the means to stage a full-scale coup or embark on any sustainable revolt," said a middle-ranking army officer who did not want to be named.

He spoke of widespread disenchantment within the army spawned by the economic crisis. Soldiers' salaries are now the equivalent of five US cents per month. The food rations they used to get to supplement meagre salaries have been stopped because imports have dried up because of the lack of funds. Instead, soldiers are being asked to bring food from home. Their salaries, barely enough to cover a day's bus fare, could not be drawn from the banks because of a cash shortage.

Despite these hardships, the sources said the mistrust within the army militated against any co-ordinated mutiny. Soldiers cannot trust each other because of spying by military police. President Mugabe has disbanded the presidential guard division and reconstituted it with well-armed faithful soldiers, mostly from his Zezuru clan. Other military units are not so well resourced. Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi, flanked by army generals Constantine Chiwenga and Philip Sibanda, condemned the rebellious soldiers and warned of tough action against them, at a press briefing attended by mostly state media in Harare. He vowed to bring the culprits to justice.

All of this can't be good news for Mugabe. It reads like the last act of a very bloody play.

With inflation running at 231,000,000% and unemployment touching 90% the wonder is that he has managed to hold off full scale revolt at all.

Zimbabwe is now on it's knees. Mugabe's catastrophic failure is complete. None of us, after such a torturous course, can predict how this will end. Only that, based on past behaviour, Mugabe will probably ensure that the end is bloody.

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