February 22, 2007

Police Support Draining From Mugabe?

Robert Mugabe may get a very unpleasant birthday gift, if this Times of London report is correct. After having decreed a ban on political protests over the next few weeks, it appears that Mugabe may not have enough police remaining loyal to enforce it:

In the clearest sign yet of government alarm at the deepening public discontent over the country’s economic collapse, it invoked the three-month prohibitions under the draconian Public Order and Security Act.

The Act was brought into effect for the first time because existing regulations were “insufficient to prevent public disorder,” officials said. ...

Witnesses cited unprecedented boldness by opposition supporters and timidity by police during encounters at demonstrations last week. In Bulawayo, Mr Mutambara stormed through the ranks of riot police to lead a march through the city without being hindered. Under normal circumstances he could have expected a beating and spent several days in police cells.

“[The Government’s] intelligence is showing them that levels of anger are higher than they have ever been,” said Mr Coltart. “They also know that the levels of anger and frustration in the police are very high.”

Dictators have to have strong police and military loyalty to maintain power, and mutineers usually get treated ruthlessly as an example to others. The fact that police in Zimbabwe feel disenchanted enough to allow protestors to organize publicly indicates that Mugabe may have trouble ahead in his effort to make it alive to his next birthday. He's planning a big celebration in Gweru and dunning the starving Zimbabweans to foot the bill, but they may have some other kind of party in mind.

You know the kind -- bring your own rope, and play Hoist The Dictator on His Own Gallows. The Italians taught it to the Romanians, who taught it to the Iraqis, and so on.

The Birthday Boy of Gweru may not have the juice to keep the police in line any more. If history provides any guide, we may start seeing purges of the police and military as the strength of the opposition increases. With any luck, Mugabe may be fleeing for his life just ahead of the candles and party favors.


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