Sunday, November 30, 2008

Mugabe's reign nears an end

You heard it here first.

If this report from the Guardian is correct, then the regime of Robert Mugabe will soon come to an end, and it will be his own people that end it.

The Guardian is reporting that last Thursday a group of Zimbabwean soldiers rioted in the capital after not being paid. Up to now, even with Zimbabwe's economic collapse and chronic food shortages, the soldiers were always fed and paid. But apparently things have gotten so bad that now that's not even possible. One soldier told a reporter "We have no food in the barracks. There is no medication in military hospitals, and we cannot access our money in the banks."

The group of 70 soldiers from Harare's main barracks apparently waited at a bank to be paid for most of the day on Thursday, but by late in the afternoon the bank manager announced that there was no money and that the bank was closing. The soldiers then went on a vandalism spree of the bank and other nearby buildings.

As conditions in Zimbabwe have worsened, Mugabe has relied more and more on the military and state security forces to keep him in power. Earlier in the year they basically beat the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party into submission during the presidential runoff between Mugabe and the MDC's Morgan Tsvangirai, who finally dropped out of the race for his own safety and for the safety of his supporters.

But Despotism 101 says that you have to keep your troops well paid and fed. So if Mugabe isn't willing, or able, to do that, he shouldn't expect his shock troops to stay loyal to him much longer. Many a dictator in the world has been overthrown either by his own security forces or by his military deliberately choosing not to stop a popular uprising.

Mugabe could face a serious challenge as early as the middle of this week when trade unions in Zimbabwe plan a protest against his economic policy. In the past this was the kind of thing Mugabe’s troops would swiftly, and harshly, break up. We'll see how they react this time.
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