Zimbabwe’s influential generals are still refusing to salute Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai six months after he joined President Robert Mugabe in a unity government, gesture analysts say shows an unwillingness to embrace change.
Almost two months before the first anniversary of the historic September 15 power sharing agreement, which gave Zimbabweans hope that the 85 year-old Mr Mugabe was being eased out of power, an unpalatable reality is beginning to sink in.
Since independence in 1980, the former guerilla leader has ruled with the support of a clique of army generals who have acquired enormous wealth such that dismantling their patronage system will come at a cost.
As head of government, Mr Tsvangirai should be saluted by all the service heads including the head of army, General Constantine Chiwenga and the Commissioner General of police, Augustine Chihuri.
The hope that Mr Tsvangirai’s ascendance to power will be smooth was mainly premised on the fact that his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had seized control of parliament from Zanu PF for the first time since independence.
But Mr Brilliant Mhlanga, a Zimbabwean academic based at the University of Westminister in the United Kingdom says the feat was a pyrrhic victory as demonstrated by the evolving political developments in the country.
And so much as the opposition has been boasting that they almost control parliament, it is useless, he said. Zanu PF has remained with the repressive state apparatus, defence forces and the judiciary. They have remained in control of all the levers of power to this day.
The army generals who repeatedly warned before the formation of the unity government that they would not salute Mr Tsvangirai because they considered him a sell out are hugely influential.
They are part of the feared Joint Operations Command (JOC), which plotted Mr Mugabe’s fight back last year following his embarrassing electoral defeat by Mr Tsvangirai and are still rumoured to be in charge of policy formulation in government.
Mr Mugabe has also stubbornly refused to constitute a National Security Council that will replace JOC. The new body will include Mr Tsvangirai.
I would say their (generals) refusal to salute Tsvangirai is a clear case that he is not in power, Mr Mhlanga said. If he had power surely there is no way that those who breach that kind of protocol would go unpunished.