We are grateful to war veterans and the military for playing their role. We extended their contracts when they had reached retirement so that they could assist us in fighting the opposition, hence we came out good.
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is coup-proofing his regime by giving security forces preferential treatment ahead of other civil servants in the face of worsening economic conditions in the country. Besides the special treatment on salaries, the military has been getting constant promotions and huge perks to keep them quiet.
By Elias Mambo
Since controversially winning the 2013 elections, which were marred by allegations of vote-rigging through the deliberate disenfranchisement of voters and the use of an Israeli security company Nikuv to run the electoral show, sources in the military say Mugabe has been on a systematic military appeasement drive to coup-roof his regime and maintain his grip on power.
One of the methods Mugabe has used is a series of promotions within the military, while also ensuring that senior officials are afforded luxuries such as top-of-the- range vehicles and other opulent perks.
“The large scale promotions are being done at a rate which has never been seen before in the history of the Zimbabwe National Army,” said an official.
Investigations by the Zimbabwe Independent show that Mugabe has since January this year promoted 56 senior army officers in a move which is largely viewed as a way of pacifying the military. This followed his outburst at the Zanu PF conference in December where he accused security service chiefs of meddling in the succession wrangle in Zanu PF.
Documents seen by this paper show that Mugabe promoted 37 majors in March to the position of lieutenant-colonel compared to the seven he promoted in 2014. Mugabe also promoted 19 lieutenant- colonels to the position of colonel.
In addition, the president also promoted three colonels to the rank of brigadier-general this year adding to the 10 brigadier-generals he appointed last year.
The army, and other security forces are also getting preferential treatment from the cash-strapped government when it comes to payment of salaries.
Last month, for example, the government staggered pay dates for civil servants, with the army receiving salaries on June 27. Members of the police, intelligence and prison services were also paid before month-end, part of Mugabe’s coup-proofing strategy.
Teachers, who form the bulk of the civil service, were only paid yesterday, while the government has moved the pay dates for the health sector to today to halt a strike. Health workers were initially supposed to be paid on July 14, but their decision to down tools forced government to shift dates.
The rest of the civil service will be paid on July 14.
“The army gets preferential treatment because they control the instruments of coercion,” said a senior government official.
As reported by this paper last week army bosses, in a desperate move to forestall potential unrest by soldiers, approached banks to set up facilities at army barracks around the country so that military personnel have access to their full salaries.
The military has over the years helped Mugabe and Zanu PF maintain their grip on power.
In 2008 for example, the military made a violent intervention to rescue Mugabe who had lost the first round of elections to MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai. The army took over the Zanu PF campaign ahead of the June 27 presidential election runoff before unleashing violence leading to Tsvangirai pulling out of the election in which Mugabe subsequently claimed victory unopposed.
The MDC-T says over 200 of its supporters were killed during the period, while thousands of people were displaced.
Mugabe at a war veterans meeting in April publicly admitted for the first time the military always plays a critical role in elections in support of Zanu PF and him.
Mugabe asked Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General Constantine Chiwenga to stand up and thanked him for the role played by service chiefs to prop up Zanu PF. He revealed that he extended the service chiefs contracts ahead of the 2013 elections so that they could assist to ensure Zanu PF records victory.
“Totenda mawar veterans, the military also, they played their role. Ndosaka takachengetedza varume ava vanga vasvika paku-retire kuti tirwe hondo neopposition, tikabva tabuda shudhu (We are grateful to war veterans and the military for playing their role. We extended their contracts when they had reached retirement so that they could assist us in fighting the opposition, hence we came out good),” Mugabe told war veterans.