I was reading a website run by a Zimbabwean who lives in that decimated country, and I was a little confused by one simple comment he made in an article.
He stated that Mugabe’s penchant for a huge motorcade with security following started “after he was narrowly missed by a huge bomb in Masvingo just after independence. At independence itself, he was also targeted after disgruntled former members of Ian Smith’s armed forces hatched a plot to blow him sky high on the podium where the handover ceremony was being presided over by Prince Charles of the United Kingdom“.
I wonder if this really happened, or is this just wishful thinking – not on the part of the writer, but on the part of Mugabe and his people responsible for security.
That Mugabe is paranoid is, I think, accepted. And the depth of that paranoia seems to deepen with each passing day.
But his personal security has grown out of all proportion, no longer really looking at preventing his coming to any hurt, and now resembles something that is stroking his ego.
His motorcade is enormous. No one that it speeds past is allowed to look at it, and, if you do, expect a good and sound beating from his accompanying soldiers. There have been instances where drivers have been shot by security personnel – and then, when the victim has been taken to hospital, treatment has been refused because of the political nature of the incident.
Mugabe has anti-aircraft guns mounted in the gardens of his mansion in Borrowdale Brook, and there are examples aplenty of the manner in which his close security personnel deal with people who are deemed to have got too close to Mugabe.
The attempted civil arrest of Mugabe in London, resulting in Peter Tatchell receiving a sound and very public beating – injuries were inflicted that he still suffers from today. There are photographs of Mugabe’s security personnel ‘dealing’ with a photographer – and there are many more stories about…
On the same website that I picked up on earlier, there is a photograph of a schoolgirl passing the torch to Mugabe to light the flame at the recent independence celebrations. As the writer points out, note the handful of dress taken by some security personnel preventing the girl from getting too close to Mugabe.
When I lived in Harare, in the last few years before we left in late 1998, it was suggested that Mugabe actually is ensconced in the ambulance at the back of the motorcade as any attack would be against ZIM1 (his luxury bulletproof, blast protected Mercedes) – and in the event that he is hurt in any attack, the medical facilities are right next to him. His place in ZIM1 is taken by a look alike…
Over the last thirty years, and probably even before then, Mugabe has made a lot of enemies – but not all of them are intent on seeing his demise. But Mugabe uses the hatred he has of others and the feeling of impending doom as a fuel tank for his paranoia – and, even if he was to be subsequently proved not paranoid, the fear he has for the wrath of the people is beyond measure.
So Mugabe is happier being protected, at grandiose expense and unreasonable grandeur, all paid for unwillingly by the overtaxed Zimbabwean workforce, from the artificially concocted perception of the popular dislike of the man.
Mugabe is aware that he is not a man of the people, nor an endearing leader – but the people can pay for his need to be safe from harm…
Robb WJ Ellis
The Bearded Man