Monday rampaging soldiers in Harare may have been an inside job by the Robert Mugabe regime to use it as an excuse to declare a state of emergency. Soldiers – including members of the Presidential Guard – have been looted shops and robbed informal foreign currency dealers saying they are failing to withdraw their wages.
Former Home Affairs minister Dumiso Dabengwa says the wave of street demonstrations and clashes with the police should not be taken at face value, as it could be a government “project” to conjure up the conditions for a crackdown on opposition parties, civil society and the general population.
He says “I do hope the demonstrations by the soldiers are genuine, and that it is not a ruse to come up with an excuse to crack down against the people, or even worse,”
“You can’t rule out what they [ZANU-PF] might do. They have so many problems … such as cholera and money shortages. They want to rule a country where they have total control over the people. Anything is possible – they face so many problems that I don’t rule out any move to contain the situation,” Dabengwa said.
Colonel Simon Tsatsi told the media the looting by mobs of soldiers was an act of indiscipline. “Whatever is happening is not the official position of the army. It’s probably just a small number of undisciplined soldiers.”
However, ordinary Zimbabweans say no soldier goes to loot shops and then returns to the barracks as if nothing happened. Suspicions are that “these events are being managed for a specific purpose, which is likely to involve allegations of trying to wage a war against the government.”
Zimbabwe’s government has made repeated accusations against Botswana, southern Africa’s most vocal critic of Mugabe’s rule, that it was providing training bases for militia aligned to Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Botswana has repeatedly denied the accusation.
“Already, there are 15 MDC activists who have been held incommunicado since October 30. When you link that to the charges made against Botswana, then you can soon expect to have soldiers who will ‘own up’ to having been somehow involved in training ‘MDC bandits’, and trying to recruit some serving soldiers to stage a mutiny,” the retired army officer said.
Not all the soldiers may be aware of the kind of trap they are being led into. Only a few soldiers would be privy to the plan and would mislead other soldiers.
The retired officer said “If the process is a managed one, then it should fizzle out quickly – before the end of the week – because there is a danger that it can spin out of control.