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How Robert Mugabe’s guns turned on him

President Robert Mugabe’s imminent fall at the hands of his own military men is not without its irony.

Before this week, the last time army generals appeared on national TV to make political announcements was in January 2002, when they vowed to defend Mugabe’s rule.

This time, they appeared on ZBC to virtually announce the end of his reign.

For years, Mugabe had given the military free reign, including running his campaigns.

 In 2013, out of ideas on how to reenergise his stuttering re-election campaign, it was to two security men that Mugabe turned for help.

Henry Muchena, a retired air vice-marshal, and Sydney Nyanungo, former director internal of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), arrived at ZANU-PF headquarters in 2013 to find a commissariat that was demoralised and out of sorts.

They set about restoring order, enforcing army-style discipline and turning around the department.

According to scholar Blessing-Miles Tendi, who had exclusive access to the campaign at that time, the security officials took over the party’s commissariat, which was the nerve centre of Mugabe’s reelection bid.

“It took charge of party structures and planning and prepared reports and made recommendations about election preparations to ZANU-PF’s elite body, the politburo,” Tendi writes in a 2013 journal published on the campaign.

This was the military being more civil in preserving Mugabe’s rule.

Just five years earlier, human rights groups say the army had been part of a violent run-off campaign, in which the opposition claims hundreds of its supporters were killed.

Now, as he faces his last days under the siege of the military, Mugabe has time to reflect on the folly of allowing the army free reign over so many civilian matters.

Zimbabwe’s army is not an ordinary army. It is still led by many who served in the war of liberation, including General Constantino Chiwenga himself.

Many of them remain steeped in the teachings of the struggle years.

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