The coalition government patched together by the African countries in Zimbabwe may be on its last legs. A Zimbabwe court freed a key aide to Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, two days after he was arrested for calling President Robert Mugabe, who has ruled the country since 1980, a liar.

James Timba, the Minister of State in the prime minister's office, told reporters that he had been denied food and had been put in a lice-ridden cell without a blanket.

Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, a Mugabe appointee, was quoted in the state owned Herald, a Mugabe mouthpiece,  “warning” Tsvangirai to “leave Zimbabwe’s generals alone.”

Tsvangirai had said on June 21 that military and police leaders should quit their posts and enter politics as civilians rather than mix security with politics.  

His rebuke followed a comment by Brigadier-General Douglas Nyikayaramba in the Herald that the army would keep the 87 year old Mugabe in power come what may. Mugabe, pronounced the general, will only leave office if he “sees fit, or dies”. The general also referred to the prime minister as a “national security threat rather than a political one”.

Since they have control of the security apparatus, Mugabe and his supporters want quick elections where they expect to oust Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change from any power sharing.

The latter want a clearly spelled out roadmap for elections with international supervision.

The military support for Mugabe can be ascribed to a lavish patronage system that makes the generals rich while Zimbabwe, with its fertile lands and vast mineral resources, has been reduced to the rank of the world's second poorest country according to Global Finance magazine. The country suffers from galloping inflation as the 100 trillion Zimbabwe Dollar note pictured here bears witness.

Amongst the spoils handed out are the Zimbabwe Prisons Service, the Zimbabwe Republic Police, the Central Intelligence Organisation, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, National Railways of Zimbabwe and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife. Also on the list now are the mining riches of the country including diamond mines.

 To be fair to the generals, they do not take all the money for themselves. Part of the proceeds will go to a political campaign fund in the expectation that the country will go to elections this year.

The president's party, ZANU-PF, has already launched a "fund raising" campaign. Members of the party's youth militia fanned out through central Harare to demand that business proprietors purchase and display portraits of President Robert Mugabe for $60 (American not Zimbabwe), or face the consequences.