Thanks much to Eddie who sent this excellent Washington Post article that uses first hand accounts and sources in building a more detailed look at the nature of Zimbabwe's tragic recent "election."
President Robert Mugabe summoned his top security officials to a government training center near his rural home in central Zimbabwe on the afternoon of March 30. In a voice barely audible at first, he informed the leaders of the state security apparatus that had enforced his rule for 28 years that he had lost the presidential vote held the previous day.
Then Mugabe told the gathering he planned to give up power in a televised speech to the nation the next day, according to the written notes of one participant that were corroborated by two other people with direct knowledge of the meeting.
But Zimbabwe's military chief, Gen. Constantine Chiwenga, responded that the choice was not Mugabe's alone to make. According to two firsthand accounts of the meeting, Chiwenga told Mugabe his military would take control of the country to keep him in office or the president could contest a runoff election, directed in the field by senior army officers supervising a military-style campaign against the opposition.
Mugabe, the only leader this country has known since its break from white rule nearly three decades ago, agreed to remain in the race and rely on the army to ensure his victory. During an April 8 military planning meeting, according to written notes and the accounts of participants, the plan was given a code name: CIBD. The acronym, which proved apt in the fevered campaign that unfolded over the following weeks, stood for: Coercion. Intimidation. Beating. Displacement.
Touching, isn't it?
I'm inclined to view Mugabe's initial, "gracious acceptance of defeat" as so much theater. Robby's a cagey old fart and it wouldn't surprise me in the least if he'd feigned defeat just to get his military wolves to prick up their ears. Never the less it does prove that Mugabe's power is finite and lends one to wonder how (if) the opposition can drive a wedge between he and the military and fuse domestic support with a military backbone.
Zimbabwe's increasingly reminiscent to me of an ass backward Pakistan or even Turkey as opposed to the blatant oligarchy of, say, Saddam's Iraq. The essence being that the political leadership isn't in absolute control of the military and the military is willing and able to step in either through coup or blatant political obstruction. This is an important distinguishing trait and one that shouldn't be ignored or overlooked by any foreign governments or international organizations thinking it wise to wade into the Zimbabwean fray. The blatant ignorance displayed by many when considering the true political/executive clout of Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad comes to mind.
That there is a degree of power sharing between the military and the dictator might be the seed for the slightest chance of hope in terms of keeping Zimbabwe from a complete collapse. Of course it also shed's some conjectural light on the question of who and what is to follow once Mugabe is out of the picture.
I've got to look deeper into this and discover if guys like Constantine Chiwenga are potential political players in the same fashion of Pervez Musharraf or hopeless, post-colonial guerrilla leader relics clinging to the good life at the expense of the Zimbabwean people.
At any rate, give the article a read, it's good stuff.