Mugabe’s crumbling bedrock

chihuri_chiwengwaHARARE Zimbabwes security chiefs who have stubbornly resisted democratic reforms could be forced to give way to change this time because of death, with a Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) top director buried last week and Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) supremo Constantine Chiwenga reportedly grappling with a

Also known as securocrats, the security chiefs have the hard power to prevent a smooth democratic transition in Zimbabwe, often acting as spoilers to any efforts by the countrys coalition government to institute much-needed political reforms.

They publicly identify with President Robert Mugabes Zanu (PF), not only because of a long history dating back to the liberation struggle but also because of the economic benefits derived from this association.

Analysts said last weeks death of CIO deputy head Menard Muzariri and news of Chiwengas poor health could be a harbinger of things to come for Zimbabwes troubled political landscape.

This could all point to a gradually loosening of Mugabes grip on Zimbabwe as the bedrock of his power makes way for forces of nature, political analyst Donald Porusingazi told The Zimbabwean On Sunday.

Mugabe confirmed during Muzariris burial that the reclusive CIO director, who succumbed to cancer last Monday, had been ill for some time and has regularly been sent for treatment in China.

The late CIO boss is alleged to have been behind a ruthless state campaign to cow opposition to Mugabe since the 1980s.

He allegedly participated in the 1980s Gukurahundi massacres that saw the murder of more than 20 000 innocent civilians by the army and secret service.

ZDF commander Chiwenga reportedly fell seriously ill two weeks ago and was also airlifted to China.

The acting ZDF commander is Air Force of Zimbabwe commander Perence Shiri, himself rumoured to be ill.

Similar rumours of illnesses have been made against Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri and Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Chihuri spent more than a week in a private South African hospital in 2007 and has since then looked frail.

Mnangagwa is believed to be the figurehead for the group of Zanu (PF) hardliners opposed to coalition government formed by Mugabe and his arch-rival Morgan Tsvangirai two years ago.

The demise of the intransigent security chiefs could pave way for a new crop of generals more amenable to reforms, Porusingazi observed.

There has also been widespread speculation about Mugabes health after his aides two months ago broke with tradition to confirm that the 87-year-old Zimbabwean strongman had during his January vacation in Singapore undergone an operation to remove an eye cataract.

He has returned to Singapore twice since February for alleged cataract reviews on his eye, stoking up speculation about the Zimbabwean leaders health, even as some of the reports suggested that his last visit on April 8 was to accompany his wife, Grace, who was not feeling well.

Grace was not with Mugabe at Muzariris funeral for reasons that were not made public.

In power since Zimbabwes 1980 independence from Britain and Africas oldest leader, Mugabes health is a closely guarded secret.

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