PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has moved swiftly to pacify the country’s
soldiers by dangling several carrots in their faces, as public anger
over his alleged misrule continues to swell.
Mugabe’s government has been struggling to pay civil servants amid reports of restlessness within the rank and file of the military.
Military officials have reportedly also been sent to camps “to check on morale” and Mugabe sought to show the soldiers he was aware of their poor conditions of service.
In his address at the Zimbabwe Defences Forces’ Day commemorations, Mugabe yesterday presented an uncharacteristically short speech — 14 minutes — where he pledged to improve soldiers’ working and living conditions to ensure they do not join the spontaneous anti-government protests that have rocked his regime over the past two months.
“In this regard, the defence forces recently acquired a fleet of troop-carrying vehicles, staff cars and buses to facilitate the movement of personnel to and from their respective work stations,” he said.
“In addition, efforts are still underway to provide decent accommodation to members of the defence forces, under the Public Sector Investment Programme and the Zimbabwe Defence Forces Benefit Fund.”
Mugabe, in the past two days, steered clear of controversial issues rocking his administration, among them the decision by disgruntled war veterans to turn their backs on him last month at a time opposition and civil society groups were piling pressure on him to step down.
The political fissures come as Mugabe is battling to contain fierce factional fights within his ruling Zanu PF party, where two distinct factions — G40, said to be loyal to First Lady Grace Mugabe and Team Lacoste, which reportedly pays allegiance to Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa — are publicly jostling to sponsor his successor.
Mugabe’s extension of an olive branch to the soldiers appears aimed at keeping their loyalty, amid allegations they were dabbling in party politics.
The President last year lashed out at the military for meddling in the internal fights for control in Zanu PF.
The veteran leader told the Zanu PF annual conference in Victoria Falls that there were elements within the country’s army, police and intelligence, who had been sucked into the brutal succession war currently engulfing the ruling party.
“The situation we have now is untenable because we now get information that some in the army, police and intelligence are involved in factionalism. They are moving around telling people their chosen candidates. Let us stop that — it’s ruining the party,” he said then. newsday