MDC braced for a coup if it wins

MDC braced for a coup if it wins (sitting in category – today’s news only and Category Daily news)


The party has an ‘action plan’ for such a scenario, based on the violence of the military in the past.Image courtesy M&G Aaron Ufumeli

Zimbabwe’s opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change  of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (MDC-T), said that, should it win the election, it was prepared for the possibility of a coup by the military, which might not accept the results.

MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said his party was concerned about the behaviour and utterances of defence force chiefs in the past, hence their push for security sector reforms. He said it was unfortunate that Zanu-PF had refused to implement the reforms, despite being urged to do so by the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

“We believe we will win the elections. But as a party we have worked out all the possible situations and scenarios that may occur should we win, including the threats of a coup.

“We have an action plan for all scenarios, although we cannot publicly share them,” he said.

“But let me say that if they are foolish enough to stage a coup, the coup will not be against MDC-T, it will be against Zimbabweans, SADC, the African Union and the international community,” Mwonzora said.

On January 9 2002, just two months before the presidential elections, Zimbabwe’s military and security chiefs made an announcement that sent shivers down the spines of ordinary Zimbabweans.

“Let it be known that the highest office in the land is a straightjacket whose occupant is expected to observe the objectives of the liberation struggle. We will therefore not accept, let alone support or salute, anyone with a different agenda that threatens the very existence of our sovereignty, our country and our people,” they said in a statement, read by the then commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF), the late general Vitalis Zvinavashe.

Zvinavashe was flanked by Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) commander Constantine Chiwenga (now ZDF commander), the commander of the Air Force of Zimbabwe, Air Marshal Perrence Shiri and police commissioner Augustine Chihuri when he declared that the securocrats would stage a coup in the event that Tsvangirai won the election.

This week, Newsday reported that retired Brigadier General Livingstone Chineka had told a village rally in Masvingo, south of Harare, that the army would dislodge Tsvangirai if he won the poll.

A security sector analyst and the executive director of the African Public Policy and Research Institute, Dr Martin Rupiya, a retired senior army officer, said security commanders would view a Zanu-PF loss as a loss to themselves, largely because of the wealth they had accumulated under Mugabe’s patronage system.

Rupiya said the military would be eager to defend its wealth and was a threat to a smooth transition.

Sources within the military spoke of their fear of losing their assets and privileges if Mugabe was defeated. They said this was the driving force behind coup threats by the military, rather than their public utterances that they viewed Tsvangirai and the MDC formations as sellouts.

Several defence force chiefs, among them Chiwenga, the commissioner general of the Zimbabwe Republic Police Augustine Chihuri,  and majors general Trust Mugoba, Douglas Nyikayaramba and Martin Chedondo have recently declared their loyalty to Mugabe and Zanu-PF.

Almost all military commanders were allocated some of the best farms during the land-reform programme and were also beneficiaries of the government agricultural mechanisation programme under which they received state-of-the-art equipment such as combine harvesters, planters and ­tractors for free.

Some of those who are retired from the army have also been deployed in various strategic state institutions and parastatals, among them the National Railways of Zimbabwe, the Grain Marketing Board and the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority.

In recent months, the military has also extended itself into business and runs diamond mines through Mbada Diamonds, Marange Resources and Anjin Investments in the in Chiadzwa area.

The army is also a shareholder in China Africa Sunlight Energy, a company involved in a $2.1-billion project to exploit methane gas and coal deposits in the Gwayi and Lupane areas of Matabeleland North.

Before the 2008 presidential run-off election, the army was widely accused of perpetrating violence in areas where Tsvangirai had done well in the first round of voting. Security analysts believe there is a chance that the sector will intervene in the same way again.

Rupiya said the fact that SADC had demanded that security chiefs publicly state that they would uphold the Constitution was a reflection that they took coup threats seriously.

“This view [of a coup] is also shared by SADC, which in its June Maputo declaration, directed the president to ensure, in writing, that the securocrats recant their 2002 mantra,” said Rupiya. He said that the African Union was also aware of the military threat given the military’s past violent interventions.

Zanu-PF has also been reported to have deployed senior officers to co-ordinate its campaign.

Air Vice-Marshal Henry Muchena and former Central Intelligence Organisation director Sydney Nyanhongo run Zanu-PF’s ­commissariat department.

Gwinyayi Dzinesa, a senior researcher with the conflict prevention and risk analysis division at the Institute for Security Studies, this week told an ISS publication he did not believe security chiefs would stage a coup, although he said they might try to interfere with the electoral process should the election go to a run-off.

Dzinesa said SADC and the AU, as guarantors of Zimbabwe’s Global Political Agreement, should come up with strategies on how best to handle a possible MDC victory.

MDC-T secretary for defence Giles Mutsekwa, a retired major, recently told the Zimbabwe Independent that he had engaged hostile top service chiefs to assure them his party would guarantee their security if they did not interfere with the transfer of power.

However, he said the rank and file of the military did not support the idea of a coup.

At a press conference earlier this week at State House, Mugabe said the army would not interfere should he lose the polls as they were “law-abiding” and disciplined.