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Mugabe claims power-sharing partners trying to oust him

Zimbabwe's peace process is near collapse, amid accusations of guerrilla training camps and abductions of opposition party members.

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Similarly, the Zimbabwe government has tackled its growing cholera epidemic by announcing that there is no epidemic, and if there were, it is a "chemical biological warfare" launched by Britain against its former colony. And when unpaid soldiers went on a rampage in the streets of the capital Harare, the government simply called out the police, prompting sporadic gunfights.

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Nearly one-third of Zimbabwe's population now lives out of the country. Another third lives in constant hunger. Even the Zimbabwe Army cannot feed its own. Soldiers are sent home to eat with their families.

A government in such disarray would appear to be a pushover. But regional security expert Richard Cornwell says that Mugabe is a master at using internal problems to strengthen his own standing and power.

"It would be counter productive to launch a guerrilla war," says Mr. Cornwell, a senior analyst at the Institute for Security Studies in Tshwane. "Even if you had a foreign military intervention, what would they do? What they would do is galvanize opinion around Mugabe. You see what happened in Iraq. There was lots of dissent toward Saddam, but the minute foreign boots hit the ground, everybody is an Iraqi."

Mugabe's regime has already demonstrated its policy toward internal threats, especially threats toward its own hold on power, says Steven Friedman, political analyst at the Institute for Democracy in Southern Africa in Tshwane. In the early 1980s, after having defeated the white Rhodesian Army, it extended olive branches toward its former enemies and turned its military ire against former allies, the ZAPU liberation movement of Joshua Nkomo.

From 1983 to 1987, Mugabe's ZANU launched a counterinsurgency campaign called Gukuruhundi in the Matabeleland region, where Nkomo's movement drew its support. Villages thought to be feeding and sheltering ZAPU were targeted for wholesale slaughter. At least 20,000 civilians died in this campaign, before Nkomo agreed to dissolve ZAPU and join ZANU-PF.

"What they did in the '80s to ZAPU was that they unleashed such a campaign in the Matabeleland, and when they had softened up ZAPU, they became compliant junior partners in the government," says Mr. Friedman. "What is happening now is the same thing. They have no desire to share power."