The Role of the Armed Forces in Zimbabwe

This analysis is important but flawed. In the past 20 years Zimbabwe has been governed in many ways by an institution we took over from Ian Smith in 1980 called the Joint Operations Command (JOC). This shadowy institution has been chaired by Mnangagwa all this time and has had its own sources of funds – some on a considerable scale.

A soldier stands guard while waiting for Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to arrive for a crucial Zanu PF Poltiburo meeting in Harare, Wednesday Feb, 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Patronage has been widespread and on a significant scale – many becoming very wealthy with children in top schools and Universities abroad and living in houses fit for millionaires. Their leadership struts around – often using convoys of vehicles that resemble the Presidential cavalcade. The overall Commander has a number plate on his armored Mercedes vehicle (the same model as Mugabe) which reads “Zim 2”. It was the JOC, not Zanu PF who delivered the electoral victory in 2013 to Mr. Mugabe and his colleagues. It was the JOC that forced Mr. Mugabe not to stand down when he was heavily defeated (54% to 27%) in 2008.

What the analysis fails to discuss below is the extraordinary events that followed the dismissal of Chris Mutsangwa from the Party and the Cabinet when the Army and the War Veterans issued a 16 page statement saying that they were pulling their support for Zanu PF and for the first time, distancing themselves from Mr. Mugabe. In the Norton bi election last month, the War Veterans supported an independent candidate. The significance of this cannot be overstated and to my knowledge remains the position. But the army is not by any means the main military or armed group – that rank goes to the Police who are not only more political but also has twice as a many men and women in Uniform.

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