February 19 2008 at 11:55AM
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's reliance on the army to keep him in power now rests on shaky ground.Two former heads of the Zimbabwean armed forces are solidly behind former finance minister Simba Makoni's rebellion against Mugabe.
Interviews with highly placed Zanu-PF officials have confirmed that General Vitalis Zvinavashe and General Solomon Mujuru have been part of Makoni's plans. The elaborate plot was hatched after the Zimbabwean president blocked Makoni's nomination as the ruling party's candidate at a special congress in December.
The sources said it had always been easy for Mugabe to rig elections, since the army ran the elections, but that this would be much more difficult against Makoni.
Other senior army officers have helped to inspire Makoni's rebellion. In party circles he is supported by Zanu-PF stalwarts, including politburo member Dumiso Dabengwa, party chairperson John Nkomo and vice-president Joseph Msika.
Officials said the fact that no senior person within Zanu-PF had openly condemned Makoni since he announced his move more than a week ago,was evidence of his wide support within the ruling party.
"The task of condemning him (Makoni) so far has been seized upon by lunatics like (war veterans leader) Joseph Chinotimba," said a senior Zanu-PF official.
The only senior member of Mugabe's inner circle to have publicly commented on the Makoni move, cabinet minister and Zanu-PF secretary for legal affairs Emmerson Mnangagwa, was very mild in his remarks.
Mnangagwa, who has been doing the bidding for Mugabe in the succession race, announced that Makoni had automatically expelled himself from the party. Mugabe has yet to make a pronouncement on Makoni's move, all of which is in sharp contrast to the normally immediate and virulent attacks launched by Mugabe and his cronies against opponents.
Sources said Mugabe's abrupt postponement of the sitting of the nomination courts two weeks ago was because he had been severely shaken by Makoni'smove and wanted to ensure that Makoni was not joined by disgruntled members who had lost out in the primaries.
Zvinavashe said in 2002 that the army would never salute Tsvangirai as president, because he had not fought in the liberation struggle. But, recently, Zvinavashe has been openly critical of Mugabe, saying that Mugabe was betraying the struggle for democracy with his decision to cling to power at all costs.
(This article was originally published on page 9 of The Mercury on
February 19, 2008)