Risks of Martial Law heighten
By Itai Mushekwe/Mary-kate Kahari/ Malvin Motsi
COLOGNE/VUMBA– Ethiopia’s exiled autocrat, Mengistu Haile Mariam, now a full Zimbabwean citizen has reportedly urged the military to take an active, and decisive role in President Robert Mugabe’s cumbersome succession gridlock, amid growing fears of a possible government shut-down and civil unrest owing to the deteriorating economic situation in the country, Spotlight Zimbabwe, has been told.
A government shut-down is defined as a situation in which a government stops providing all but essential services, resulting in a furlough for civil servants, covering the duration of the shut-down itself.
In the United States, for instance the longest partial government shut-down in the modern era stretched from November 19, 1995 to December 16, 1995. The shut-down was the result of President Bill Clinton and the then Republican-controlled Congress clashing over the budget and the country’s debt ceiling limit.
The secretive disclosures come on the backcloth, of reports that the ruling Zanu PF administration, has suspended salary payments for teachers and nurses due to worsening cash shortages. Harare will only make available the salaries on July 7 and 14 for the respective professions, instead of the normal June 20 pay-day.
Zimbabwe’s military and air force officers, have however been prioritised, and will be paid on June 27 instead of the 12th of the month while police and prison staff will be paid on June 30, according to finance secretary, Willard Manungo.
As Mugabe faces a worsening balance of payment crisis, his exchequer Patrick Chinamasa, is this week expected to finalise agreements to repay some US$1.86 billion of arrears to multilateral financial institutions, in anticipation of re-entry into the international financial system after almost two decades out in the cold.
According to high level army sources, Mengistu has been holding “several private meetings” at his farm in Vumba between February and April 2016 with senior military personnel, where as a hired consultant of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, he has allegedly proposed that the army steps in to resolve Mugabe’s succession before it is too late.
“His (Mengistu) argument is that President Robert Mugabe’s succession issue has become so complex, such that only the military can step in with a solution,” said a senior officer based at Mutare’s 3 Brigade army base in confidentiality. “They want a military solution, through civilian architecture, because the warring factions in the ruling party could trigger a total collapse of the ruling party, and the President is thought to be open to a peaceful succession exit, which will not cost Zanu PF power, something which is within the orbit of the military, without having to stage a putsch.”
It has also come to light that Mengistu, has now reportedly become an unofficial member, of the influential Joint Operations Command (JOC), and he sometimes travels to Harare for some consultation work, during which time he is rarely seen at his upmarket Gunhill mansion.
JOC brings together the army, intelligence, prison and police chiefs.
Intelligence sources last week said, Mengistu, without giving a specific date, had allegedly met Mugabe and some security chiefs, to recommend military strategy, which can be employed to keep the regime politically afloat, as the danger of civil disobedience was increasingly being precipitated by the current cash crunch.
“We gather that he has met the President, and they have discussed key security issues. Mengistu is of the view that the President must not be forced or rushed out of office, but the time had come for the military to be involved if Zanu PF is to survive beyond 2018. The only worrying factor is that there might be a period of martial law, should the succession issue end up being carelessly handled. We have the President to thank for the present peace prevailing, he cannot just leave office prematurely, because it will result in chaos.”
As first reported by Spotlight Zimbabwe, on 18 March 2016, Mengistu is said to be also the brainchild behind a political scheme of having Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) Commander, General Constantine Chiwenga, brewing since 2008 to become vice president, under VP Emmerson Mnangagwa’s likely presidency possibly before year end.
This publication can also put it on record, that Mnangagwa and Chiwenga, are all but set to become the new Zanu PF administration before the much anticipated 2018 Presidential elections, as Mugabe is unlikely to finish his term according to party insiders.
Defence minister, Sydney Sekeramayi’s mobile phone was unreachable the whole day yesterday when we sought a comment. The minister’s office also declined to give official comment.
Mengistu fled to Zimbabwe in 1991 following his ouster by rebel forces in a country he ruled with an iron grip for 17 years after the 1974 assassination of Emperor Haile Sellassie.
He has also been issued with a Zimbabwean diplomatic passport with full citizenship by Mugabe since 2002 according to foreign affairs officials in the capital. All of Mengistu’s family members have also been granted citizenship, after their father successfully sought asylum following a civil war defeat in 1991.
Mengistu was tried and found guilty of genocide in absentia and was sentenced to life in prison in January 2007.
Some of the known family members are: Andenet (son), who has been studying abroad on a Zimbabwean passport for years, and is believed to be now fronting family business interests in the country; Tegiste (daughter) a qualified doctor, who has been employed by the ministry of health since 1998, in the paediatrics department in the capital. She is also registered with the Health Professions Council.