How Robert Mugabe’s guns turned on him


In 2011, Mugabe said the military could never be separated from ZANU-PF.

“They are a force that has a history, a political history.”

But in his bid to please them, Mugabe created a monster that now, literally, stands at his gates.


To keep the army on his side, he has kept it well-oiled with everything from choice farms to top paying jobs in state enterprises.

In return, he relied on them to quell dissent when his power was threatened.

Mugabe allowed the military to gain a foothold in civilian matters.

In 2005, he launched Operation Maguta, a Stalin-style operation in which soldiers ran farms.

Later, arms of the military were given lucrative concessions in the diamond fields of Marange.

The skills flight of the early 2000s provided a pretext for army deployment to shore up low staffing levels in government departments, but it soon became a way to reward former and even serving army men with senior jobs at state enterprises.

At least a dozen parastatals have been or are currently led by army men.

At least 13 are either headed by or have board representation of former or serving officers.

At the 2014 burial of Mike Karakadzai, an ex-army officer accused by many of having run the National Railways of Zimbabwe into the ground, Mugabe thumbed his nose at critics of such appointments.

“One gets surprised when our detractors question the wisdom of deploying ex-military officers in State institutions and they describe such deployments as the militarisation of institutions concerned,” Mugabe said.

“Nothing could be further from the truth. These men and women are role models of valour, patriotism, honesty, industriousness and discipline, all qualities that are beyond reproach.”

Jaison Machaya, Midlands resident minister and one of Mugabe’s allies, also defended the appointments, saying army officials were the best managers.

“Some people always say government is militarising institutions, but let me remind them that the world over military personnel have proved to be the best managers for parastatals because they are highly disciplined, loyal, dedicated and most of all principled,” Machaya was quoted speaking at an army barracks last year.

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The Insider

The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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