Zimbabwe on the brink: Police and Army falls into Zanu PF bitter in-fighting

HARARE – Police wielding guns and riot sticks skirmished with unarmed soldiers in Zimbabwe's capital Monday, after frustration over unpaid wages touched off a riot.

This is amid reports that Gen Mujuru’s Zanu PF faction has siezed control of the army, while Robert Mugabe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, Central Bank Governor Gideon Gono and Police Chihuri are in control of the police, as crucial ruling party congress comes up in a few weeks. 

Police took away one civilian hit by a bullet.

It is reported that most of the War Veterans and former party militia are in the Police and they have been receiving their salaries directly from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe where former Police Commssioner Henry Mukurazhizha has been tasked to run a secret payroll.

Trouble began when soldiers attacked money changers believed to be people from the Reserve Bank and stole cash after being unable to draw their wages at banks. Zimbabwe’s dire financial situation has triggered a cash shortage, making it impossible for people to get access to enough money to survive.

Soldiers believe Senior politicians and Army commanders are diverting money intended for their salaries to the black market.

Our reporter was told by an army Captain at the HQ’s Zimbabwe National Army Pay and Records (ZAPAR) which processes salaries for army officers, that money is send into the black market first before it is despatched into bank Accounts.

The current crop of soldiers are all young recruits who did not participate in the War of liberation, but Mugabe has kept War Veterans in the command structure.

Associated Press reporters watched as hundreds of people gathered, some lobbing stones while others cheered. Rioters broke windows in at least two shops, rushed in and grabbed groceries and clothing.

As violence spread through central Harare, two trucks filled with riot police carrying tear gas canisters headed downtown. Men in plainclothes and armed with submachine guns — assumed to be intelligence agents — began arresting soldiers. 

Monday’s violence marks the second time in a week that soldiers have attacked money changers, and also comes at a time of widespread unease in Zimbabwe. Authorities battling a cholera epidemic cut water supplies because of a shortage of chemicals at treatment plants, fueling emotions further.

In another sign of ongoing internal turmoil, the government rejected a regional court ruling that demanded Zimbabwe stop seizing land from white farmers.

The government instead will speed up efforts to take land remaining in whites farmers’ hands and redistribute it to black subsistence farmers, lands minister Didymus Mutasa said, according to the state-controlled newspaper, The Herald.

President Robert Mugabe’s often-violent land reform has forced thousands of white farmers off prime agricultural land since 2000 and triggered a food crisis.

The Southern African Development Community’s tribunal ruled Friday that Zimbabwe should allow 78 white commercial farmers to keep their farms, which had been targeted for expropriation.

The Namibia-based court also said Zimbabwe should pay compensation to three farmers who already had lost their land.

The tribunal, set up by 14 countries including Zimbabwe, can hear appeals from citizens but does not have power to enforce its rulings.

Zimbabwe once boasted one of Africa’s most vibrant economies, with good health care and infrastructure built up after Mugabe won the first democratic elections in 1980. But the economy has collapsed since Mugabe began seizing white farmland in 2000, with runaway hyperinflation, mass unemployment and shortages of most major commodities, including gasoline and food.

Some 5.5 million Zimbabweans — half the population — face imminent starvation due to the food crisis that resulted from Mugabe’s land redistribution, the United Nations said.

A recent cholera epidemic has killed hundreds across the country, and an anthrax outbreak has claimed three lives.

Since disputed elections this year, government has been paralyzed amid power-sharing talks between Mugabe and the opposition, with politicians arguing over how to share Cabinet posts.

Meanwhile, the country’s sewage and water facilities have collapsed, hospitals have closed and garbage has gone uncollected.

The government says cholera has killed 425 people and sickened more than 11,000 since August.

Harare, at the center of the epidemic, was without water Monday, after the state utility ran out of chemicals to treat the supply, The Herald reported.

Anthrax has killed two children and one adult in western Zimbabwe, and is threatening to wipe out at least 60,000 livestock, according to the British charity Save the Children. It said starvation was forcing people to eat infected meat.