Commenting on the conversation, the CIO’s counter-intelligence division noted with satisfaction that “this serves to illustrate … that the Harare-based Koreans have no idea of our operations against them”.
CIO counter-intelligence, undoubtedly with Mugabe’s approval, also placed other professed friends under surveillance.
One of those was South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC).
Thabo Mbeki has since claimed that Mugabe agreed to allow the ANC to use Zimbabwe as a base from which to conduct covert military operations in apartheid South Africa – a claim that seems to have more to do with Mbeki’s latter-day dalliance with Mugabe than the historical reality of the antagonistic relationship between ZANU and the ANC.
But if Mugabe did give the ANC such assurances, he lied.
Counter-intelligence watched the ANC – and Mbeki himself – as intensively as those Mugabe loathed the most, all with a view to preventing ANC operations of the kind that Mbeki says were authorised.
In what is another conspicuous irony, the voluminous nature of CIO intelligence on the ANC, much of which was photocopied by apartheid agents and sent south, provided Pretoria with a detailed manual on how to attack ANC targets in Zimbabwe.
While Mugabe was concerned about the threat posed by South African agents to his own security, it is not clear that he was particularly bothered by collateral damage to the ANC.
Given his antipathy towards ZAPU and the Russians, two ANC allies that attracted the deepest of his not inconsiderable hatreds, it is reasonable to suspect that he was not.
Certainly, Mugabe’s Machiavellian bent extended well beyond superficial liberation partners such as the ANC to his own party colleagues and even his closest confidants.
Mugabe used the CIO to watch the activities of troublesome party leaders such as Eddison Zvobgo, and there were other times when ZANU-PF ministers agreed to report on their counterparts directly.
Joice Mujuru – along with her husband, Solomon, then army chief – served as Mugabe’s moles in 1980 when two of Mugabe’s most disruptive internal rivals, Edgar Tekere and Enos Nkala, met to discuss the formation of a rebel faction dubbed “Super ZANU”.
Thirty years later, the wheel had seemingly turned, with Joice tracing Solomon’s mysterious death in a 2011 house fire to his participation in a committee that had been established to discuss a successor to Mugabe.
Throughout the 1980s, there was no one more deeply immersed in Mugabe’s machinations than the minister of state security, Emmerson Mnangagwa.
He was, more often than not, the day-to-day link between the schemes in the prime minister’s head and their implementation.
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