Without the support of the army, police, intelligence and to some extent the prison service, analysts say the octogenarian’s reign would have ended a long time ago.
Zanu PF has always denied that the security forces have been used to prop up Mugabe’s rule.
But the party’s angry reaction to a request by South African President Jacob Zuma’s facilitation team for a frank discussion with the generals on the roadmap to fresh elections betrayed the real nature of the power dynamics.
Zuma’s team made the request following concerns that lack of security reforms were now the remaining major obstacle to a credible poll. Securocrats were blamed for the violence that disrupted the June 27 2008 presidential run-off elections and partisan statements by the generals in support of Mugabe on the eve of elections have compromised their professional standing.
Generals are Zanu PF’s ‘backbone’
Analysts say Mugabe and Zanu PF hardliners want the elections this year before security sector reforms because the party believes it is still in a position to use security forces to campaign.Mugabe, said analysts, derives his power from “brute force” exerted by an extremely partisan army, police and central intelligence organisation (CIO).
Any reform is a direct threat to his “illegitimate” power base, they said.
“We will be naivé to think that Zanu PF will reform that sector because by doing so he (Mugabe) will be finished,” said an analyst who spoke on condition of anonymity.
But the analysts believe Mugabe and hawks in Zanu PF will succumb to mounting pressure from an increasingly no-nonsense Sadc and African Union (AU) as they are left with little room to manoeuvre.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition regional co-ordinator for South Africa office Dewa Mavhinga said failure to reform will open up Zimbabwe to Sadc, AU and international intervention.
“The time for military coups by stealth is long gone, the people of Zimbabwe will accept nothing less than a full measure of democracy and freedom,” said the South African-based analyst.
Mavhinga said after Zanu PF’s electoral defeat by MDC-T in March 2008, the role of the security forces in keeping Mugabe in power became decisive. He claimed the security forces “practically reversed the vote and blocked the will of the people”, effectively giving Mugabe a new lease of life.
“Without the overt and obtrusive role of security forces in civilians, Mugabe and Zanu PF would have long been confined to the dustbin of history,” Mavhinga said.
Prominent human rights lawyer Gabriel Shumba, who heads the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum (ZEF) said the security sector was heavily compromised, especially the army and police.
He said the security sector must make a declaration that they will respect a popular outcome after the next elections. Known compromised officers, he suggested, must be removed from their posts.
Another analyst Charles Mangongera said security chiefs were resistant to reform because the majority of them have “skeletons in their cupboards.”
Mangongera said the security chiefs must be assured that after they are “retired” they would not be punished for their past deeds.
But Mavhinga disagrees: “But unfortunately, no guarantees can be given regarding amnesty and immunity for those individuals who have and continue to commit gross human rights abuses.”
The security sector has been actively involved in propping up Mugabe and Zanu PF since the 1980s.
Since the 2008 elections, soldiers have been deployed in rural areas to prop up Mugabe’s drastically waning political fortunes.