SERVING military officers and other security agents have been deployed to Zanu PF, including at the party’s headquarters in Harare, to revive the party’s crumbling structures ahead of anticipated elections next year.President Robert Mugabe is feverishly pushing for elections next year despite resistance from senior party officials in Zanu PF and the MDC formations in the inclusive government.
Mugabe has said he wants the referendum on the new draft constitution in March next year and national elections in June. This has put him into conflict with the constitutional parliamentary select committee which wants the referendum on June 30.
The constitution-making process is riddled with chaos, confusion and violence, making it highly improbable that the process will be completed by March next year.
Informed sources this week told the Zimbabwe Independent that Mugabe is trying hard to form a consensus in his party for elections. In the meantime, Mugabe and his cabal grouped around the Joint Operations Command (JOC), which brings together the army, police and intelligence chiefs, have been working hard on the ground for elections.
Sources said a group of soldiers — code-named Boys on Leave — has been deployed to work with Zanu PF to rebuild and renew the party’s collapsing structures. The team is led by Air Force of Zimbabwe Air Vice-Marshal Henry Muchena. Muchena is said to be working with a team of 300 army officers who are scattered around the country. Former Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) director internal, Sydney Nyanhongo, is also part of the team and is now working directly with Zanu PF.
The army helped out Mugabe mainly during the presidential elections in 2002 and 2008. The Zanu PF politburo resolved after the March 2008 elections in which the party lost control of parliament to MDC-T and Mugabe was defeated in the first round of polling to use a “warlike” strategy to win the elections. A campaign of violence and intimidation followed resulting in MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai pulling out of the polls. State security service chiefs said they would not respect Tsvangirai even if he won. They insinuated they could even oust him through a coup if he won.
This came as Zanu PF politburo officials heard from their commissariat department that the party structures were in shambles countrywide, raising fears that the party could perform dismally as it did in March 2008. Mugabe admitted after Zanu PF for the first since 1980 lost control of parliament that his party was “disorganised, divided, fragmented, fractured and weak” due to factionalism and imposition of candidates.
Politburo members told the Independent that an extra-ordinary politburo meeting on Wednesday was shocked after political commissar Webster Shamu (pictured) revealed that grassroots structures had crumbled and were in a state of chaos.
Sources who attended the meeting said Shamu told the politburo that Zanu PF was not ready for elections considering its structures had collapsed due to failure of the centre to hold and ravages of chronic factionalism. Mugabe was said to have indicated party structures must be revived as a matter of urgency.
Previous Zanu PF political commissars, particularly Richard Ndlovu before the 2008 elections, had repeatedly pointed out that party structures had gone to rack and ruin, but not much has been done to revitalise them. Zanu PF officials concede that their party has collapsed into the state and that is why the army and other security structures are used to prop it up.
“Mugabe’s and Zanu PF’s strategy for elections is very clear,” a senior government official said.
“The party is going to rely on the state security structures to support its campaign. Zanu PF structures are very weak and in some places have collapsed but the party is relying on the use of army and other state security structures for support, especially during elections.”
Zanu PF government officials and JOC have deployed Muchena and 300 army officers to help out the party. The current party strategy for elections is also based on this. Before the constitution-making exercise Zanu PF engaged Boys on Leave to work for them and they outmanoeuvred the MDC-T and other parties.”
Muchena, who assumed his current position in the Air Force in 2002 after the army helped to retain Mugabe during the controversial presidential election that year, is now based at Zanu PF headquarters in Harare and is working with six senior officers to re-organise and revive Zanu PF structures.
Sources said Muchena’s team also includes three top commanders stationed at each of the country’s 10 provinces. These commanders were being assisted three soldiers per district deployed around the country. Zimbabwe has 59 districts and 1 200 municipalities. The soldiers deployed at district level were stationed at all the 59 districts.
The sources said the team comprised soldiers who were involved during the 2008 election campaigns. “The soldiers involved are those who joined the liberation before 1975, which means they are above 40 years and have served in the army for some time,” a source said.
Muchena’s team is complemented by war veterans and Zanu PF youth militias. War veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda has of late been roaming the country campaigning for Zanu PF and causing havoc in his trail. Since 1980 Zanu PF has always conducted para-military campaigns while other parties engaged in political campaigns.
Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is also the party’s secretary for legal affairs, said yesterday the army was not working with Zanu PF.
He said the army did not deploy any officers to the country’s districts for campaign purposes but that 10% of the army’s 40 000 men were sent out every month countrywide for national security reasons.
“The army did not deploy any soldiers for campaigning,” he said. “Every month we deploy 10% of the total force, which is 10% of 40 000, to its bases geographically dispersed among the different districts for reasons of national security. It is government policy to deploy soldiers across all the political districts.
“There are also retired officers countrywide that are allowed to wear their uniforms on appropriate occasions. So what people see sometimes are retired soldiers and movement of soldiers being deployed to and coming back,” he said.
Mnangagwa added that retired army personnel were free to support political parties of their choice. He gave an example of retired officers like Tichaona Mudzingwa, Giles Mutsekwa and Martin Rupiya who have chosen to join MDC-T, while Colonel Christian Katsande and Samuel Mavuti have chosen to serve in parastatals.
“Likewise, some have joined Zanu PF like Claudious Makova and the late Vitalis Zvinavashe chose to occupy high offices in Zanu PF. Can you then say I deployed Mutsekwa to MDC-T?” Mnangagwa asked.
Zanu PF spokesmen however virtually confirmed Muchena and others were helping out his party. “Muchena could be assisting but he is not fully employed by the party. He just comes to assist like the likes of (Tafataona) Mahoso and (Jonathan) Moyo who come here from time to time to assist us.”