By Bill Saidi
LAST May, the government launched Operation Murambatsvina that everybody in the country came to know as The Tsunami.
Five months earlier, there had been a massive earthquake on the Indian Ocean floor and the subsequent tsunami had killed 140 000 people and rendered millions homeless in 12 countries, the hardest hit of them Indonesia.
Most Zimbabweans made the distinction: theirs was man-made while the Asian one was what Newsweek magazine called “a monumental humanitarian disaster”.
But for most, their tsunami, its suddenness, unexpectedness and deadliness was equivalent to the Asian one.
Initially, the government had no ready label for the campaign. When the label, Murambasvina/Restore Order was first used, many cynics thought it too glib. It smacked of the sort of thing people obsessed with gallows or ghoulish humour – like the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) – are fond of.
So, by the time a London-based magazine suggested the CIO had choreographed the entire tsunami in Zimbabwe, such cynics felt vindicated.
The story went something like this: the CIO told President Robert Mugabe that they had impeccable intelligence that there was a plan to launch a march on State House. The idea was to force him to flee into exile.
A number of autocratic leaders, particularly of the former Soviet states, had been ousted in this manner. George Shevardnadze of Georgia was an example.
To forestall the march, the CIO proposed a terror campaign in the major urban centres, the stronghold of the opposition MDC.
Mugabe, reportedly one of the most insecure leaders in the region, readily agreed to the plan. It was not the first time he had acceded to the CIO scare-mongering.
Since this exposé from the New African magazine, there have been spirited flimsy denials by the Information and Publicity permanent secretary who said the magazine did not speak on behalf of government. This in other words meant that the magazine, an undisguised mouthpiece of President Mugabe, lied, and the lie was carried in the state media.
But there is all the evidence that President Mugabe is now hostage to the security functionaries who have dramatised his insecurity to justify desperate measures.
Operation Murambatsvina fits into this realm and state agents moved with speed to execute the savage plan with precision.
It was the same readiness to believe the CIO scare tactics which led to Gukurahundi.
The CIO is reported to have made such a solid case for the overthrow of the government by ex-Zipra dissidents that Mugabe didn’t think twice before deploying the deadly Five Brigade troops into Matabeleland and the Midlands provinces.
In the aftermath, albeit years later, he admitted the killing of an estimated 20 000 people, including women and children, was a terrible mistake. The nation is still waiting for his apology.
For his pains, Zanu PF will never reclaim Matabeleland politically, ever again. The CIO is also believed to have frightened President Mugabe out of his wits over the hare-brained demands of the war veterans led by the late Chenjerai Hunzvi.
Their scenario: if Hunzvi persuaded the ex-fighters to ditch Zanu PF and make common cause with any opposition party, the ruling party’s political goose would truly be cooked.
Recently, President Mugabe realised the war veterans were not the political asset that he always thought they were. He acted against them rather harshly: their leader was recently fired from the party and there has so far been not a peep from the rank and file members.
But his greatest blunder was probably to succumb to the CIO plot on the farm invasions.
He had conceded defeat in the constitutional referendum. A few days later, he told the judiciary to go to hell and unleashed war veterans on the commercial farms.
In the elections that followed, 40 people were killed and this triggered Zimbabwe’s economic slide.
The payment to the war veterans had caused a tsunami of its own in the billions of unbudgeted expenditure. The dollar plunged in value – and has still not recovered.
Clearly, if the CIO is now virtually running the government, by presenting President Mugabe with their own versions of the truth, there could be a time-bomb ticking under him.
Intelligence services all over the world can take over a country. In the United States, a book called The Invisible Government detailed how the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) virtually took over the running of the government from the president. Richard Nixon, before he took office after his first victory in 1968, he was not too keen on the CIA.
In his book, The White House Years, Henry Kissinger, who served as his secretary of state, says: “He was determined to run foreign policy from the White House. He felt it imperative to exclude the CIA.”
* Bill Saidi is former editor of the banned Daily News.