'Mugabe more paranoid since disputed poll'

HARARE – The 89-year old disputed Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is reported to have displayed a growing sense of paranoia when he attended the SADC summit in Malawi last week, soon after claiming to have won a landslide victory in the July 31st elections.

According to the Independent newspaper, Mugabe avoided travelling in vehicles provided by the regional grouping while in Lilongwe, “citing security reasons”.

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The paper quoted sources who alleged that Mugabe turned down the SADC-hired Mercedes Benz, claiming that “most European countries enjoy good relations with Malawi” and this increased “chances of an ambush by locally based agents”.

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The report said that Mugabe, having escalated his security after the disputed poll back home, “opted to use his official Zim 1 limousine sent to Malawi by road, arriving a day before the summit”. Two Toyota Hiluxes are said to have escorted the Zim1 by road to Malawi, via Nyamapanda and Mwanza borders.

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The ageing Mugabe’s behavior reportedly “surprised all members of the regional grouping because all logistics were in place with security on high alert”, the Independent newspaper said.

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But his spokesman, George Charamba, defended his boss, saying: “He has always been using his own car for regional engagements so there is nothing new here”.

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Commentator Luke Zunga from the Global Zimbabwe Forum dismissed Mugabe’s actions in Malawi, saying there were no enemies from the west hunting him down in Malawi. He added that Mugabe has an intelligence unit that would have advised him of this.

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“Maybe these enemies are in his own mind but I think there are not many people who want to hunt him down and kill him, because Zimbabweans are not really violent. They are peaceful people,” Zunga told SW Radio Africa.

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He added: “No-one has tried to kill him so far and I’ve never heard of an attempted coup or assassination in Zimbabwe, no! As I say Zimbabweans are peaceful people. They try other ways to resist or otherwise they leave the country.”

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According to The Independent, a senior government official in Malawi said President Banda had ordered that all ministerial vehicles be rented to SADC heads of state, leaving fleet vehicles for other duties. “Ordinary people with vehicles in excellent condition” were also given the opportunity to supply them for use by SADC delegates.

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The cost to Malawi for hosting the SADC summit was reportedly over US $1.3 million, most of it owing to car rentals, and the Malawian press blasted the government over this.

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Meanwhile, Robert Mugabe says his government will not assist Harare and Bulawayo residents after they voted against his Zanu PF party in the recent harmonised elections.

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Addressing thousands of mourners yesterday during the burial of Mike Karakadzai — a former liberation war fighter and head of ailing National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ), at the National Heroes Acre — Mugabe said Harare and Bulawayo residents should go and demand service delivery from the MDC because they “don’t support” his party.

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“Did you really think that level of ignorance could run the country? Harare and Bulawayo actually voted for this amount of ignorance, chiendai munopihwa zvamakavhotera (now go and get what you voted for from them). I hope our country will never repeat this feat again,” Mugabe said.

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Mugabe’s Zanu PF party has never won meaningful seats in the two cities since the formation of the MDC in 1999, until this year when the ruling party managed to get six parliamentary seats from Harare — but still failed to get anything from Bulawayo.

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During his campaign, Mugabe promised jobs to Bulawayo youths and an improvement in service delivery, and with his party winning over two-thirds majority in Parliament, expectations are high from unemployed youths in the once industrial hub of Zimbabwe and indeed throughout the country.

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The former guerrilla leader — who has led the country since independence in 1980 also said military personnel will continue dominating key government institutions because his “Zanu PF cannot be separated from the military”.

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“We have not militarised the public sector, nothing could be further from the truth. Zanu PF is already militarised.

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“Yes, it has the political side for which its military fought for, but the life of the party which led to victory came from the armed struggle,” the octogenarian leader said.

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During his 33-year rule, ex-military individuals have been appointed to head key institutions especially parastatals.

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Some of the institutions that are still being led by either ex-serving or current soldiers include National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ), Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, and the State broadcaster, ZBC.

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Serving soldiers such as Douglas Nyikayaramba have been appointed to lead NRZ while Karakadzai — himself a retired Air Commodore — left the Air Force to revive the State railway company.

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During his reign as general manager of NRZ, the company struggled to survive with workers going for months without salaries while some locomotives were grounded.

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Mugabe said he will continue using military personnel in the civil service.

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“Whose civil service is it anyway? Is it not Zanu PF? So what’s this nonsense I hear? As Zanu PF, we are more of a military party, we went to the liberation struggle and freed this country through our military ranks.  I don’t see why people would be surprised with this,” Mugabe said.

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“These are people in the military who embody leadership virtues which enable them to lead the parastatals, they know what we fought for and how to preserve it,” he said.

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Senior military officers have in recent years been appointed to top posts in public institutions, including State-run companies and the judiciary, as the armed forces increase their influence.

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Military individuals such as Christian Katsande, a retired colonel, is deputy secretary in the office of President and Cabinet while Elliot Kasu — a retired Brigadier sits on the boards of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation and the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa).

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Another retired military boss who is active in public sector is Col Tshinga Dube — who is chairman of a State owned mining firm — Marange Resources.

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Opposition parties have accused Mugabe of holding on to power through the aid of the military, who also have in the past said they will not salute a president without liberation war credentials.

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On the eve of the 2002 presidential election, senior army and air force bosses issued a statement saying they would not support a president who lacked credentials from the 1970s war of liberation against white rule — a clear reference to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

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Mugabe, at the same function also took a swipe at the MDC leader, who lost the recent elections saying the former prime minister was an “ignorant person”.

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“An ignorant person who is aware of their ignorance is redeemable, but if you are ignorant of your ignorance we have a problem,” Mugabe said of his arch rival.

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He said this referring to Tsvangirai’s attempts to challenge his election victory in the courts after he had previously lashed out and questioned the impartiality of the judges.

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Mugabe was declared the winner of the disputed polls with a 61 percent margin compared to Tsvangirai who got 34 percent of the total vote.

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He attacked his former inclusive government partners for attempting to reform the security sector during the lifespan of the shaky coalition government.

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“What security sector reforms? I had never heard of that word before, sector reform ipi yaunoziva iwe (what reform do you know of)? Since when has a frog aspired to being a crocodile?” Mugabe said.