London, June 6 : A senior western diplomat has said that Zimbabwe's generals have mounted a "military coup by stealth", reducing President Robert Mugabe to a figurehead.
The tight circle of securocrats, who sit on the Joint Operations Command (JOC) committee, are now believed to be in day-to-day charge of Zimbabwe's Government.
They ensured that Mugabe did not step down after his defeat in the presidential election's first round in March and are now masterminding a campaign of terror to suppress the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and guarantee victory for Mugabe in the June 27 run-off.
The government indefinitely suspended all work by aid groups and non-governmental organisations, accusing them of breaching their terms of registration, The Telegraph reported.
Mugabe is a useful figurehead who still commands the deference of other African leaders, notably President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa.
But the western diplomat said Mugabe's power had ebbed away and a "junta" now runs Zimbabwe.
The most powerful figures on the JOC are Gen Constantine Chiwenga, the overall military chief; Augustine Chihuri, the National Police Commissioner, and General Paradzai Zimondi, the commander of the prison service.
The diplomat said after the first round of the election on March 29, Mugabe almost went when it became clear that Morgan Tsvangirai had won significantly more votes.
But a pivotal meeting of the JOC on March 30 convinced him to stay.
"The generals didn't let him go," said the diplomat.