VICE Air Marshal Henry Muchena is set to quit the Air Force of Zimbabwe at the end of this year and work full-time for Zanu PF, as President Robert Mugabe militarises his party whose structures have been ravaged by rampant factionalism.
This comes as the Zanu PF national commissariat has been ordered by the politburo to urgently revamp grassroots structures in preparation of anticipated elections next year.
Muchena, who was appointed Air Vice Marshal in 2002, would join full time former Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) director-internal, Sydney Nyanhongo at the party headquarters in the commissariat department.
Their task, sources said, will be to revive the crumbling party structures ahead of the elections, which Mugabe wants mid-next year.
Muchena and Nyanhongo, former Zanla guerillas during the liberation struggle, are working with a team of 300 army officers –– code named “boys on leave” –– who are scattered around the country to renew the party structures which national commissar Webster Shamu described two weeks ago as shambolic.
One politburo member this week said: “Muchena is quitting the Air Force at the end of the year to work for the party and Nyanhongo is retired. Now that he won’t be doing anything, he has decided to work for the party and what is wrong with that? There are retired army people in MDC and no one talks about it.”
Shamu told a Zanu PF extra-ordinary politburo meeting a fortnight ago that the party structures had collapsed and were in a state of chaos, making it difficult for Zanu PF to win the coming polls.
He reportedly said Zanu PF was too fractured to face Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC-T and this forced Mugabe to order the commissariat to urgently revamp the structures.
Although Muchena will officially retire from the Air Force at the end of the year, Zanu PF insiders said he was already stationed at the party headquarters and was working with six senior officers to re-organise and renew the party structures.
Muchena’s team is complemented by war veterans and youth militia. War veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda has been campaigning for Zanu PF and causing havoc in Manicaland and Masvingo provinces.
Zanu PF insiders said as divisions within the party continue to deepen on factional lines, Mugabe, in order to maintain control of both the party and the government, has been appointing former military personnel to run the party. Mugabe has also previously appointed onto boards and top management posts at parastatals retired soldiers.
The army has proved loyal to Mugabe and effective in the political assignment he gave them. The army has helped ensure Mugabe’s continued rule, mainly during the presidential elections in 2002 and 2008. Zanu PF’s politburo resolved after the March 2008 elections in which the party lost control of parliament and Mugabe lost the first round of polling to use a more “warlike” strategy to win elections.
Mugabe views military personnel as loyal to him and this has been shown through statements from top army and security chiefs, who have vowed not to support anyone without liberation war credentials.
Brigadier-General Douglas Nyikayaramba was recently quoted saying only a person with revolutionary credentials would rule the country.
He told Manicaland chiefs, soldiers and the police at 3-3 infantry battalion in Mutare on October 23 that: “The president is being condemned by some people because he is calling for black empowerment. Some people are saying that Mugabe should be removed from power but that will never happen when we are here.”
He added that: “No one without any revolutionary credentials will rule this country. We have no regrets over this statement because a lot of our people sacrificed their lives for the liberation of this country and we do not want them to turn in their graves because we would have sold out.”
Nyikayaramba said he is not ashamed to be Zanu PF “because I am where I am today because of the party. Some of us actively participated in the struggle and we cannot stand up and say we do not belong to that party.”
Yesterday Nyikayaramba declined to comment, while Muchena could not be reached on his mobile phone.
Some of the top army and security officials that have been appointed to parastatal boards are National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) general manager Air Commodore Mike Karakadzai, NRZ board chairperson Nyikayaramba, former GMB CEO retired colonel Samuel Muvuti, who was replaced by former senior police assistant commissioner Albert Mandizha, Zesa board chair retired captain Noah Madziva, former Manicaland governor Mike Nyambuya, deputy chief secretary to the President and Cabinet retired colonel Christian Katsande, and retired Brigadier-General Agrippa Mutambara, who is the ambassador to Mozambique.
The militarisation of institutions has transcended to six state-run media institutions: the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings, Transmedia, Kingstons and New Ziana to which several retired military personnel were appointed.
Mugabe is hoping that the army will root out factionalism and save his party from crumbling.
Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo confirmed the audit of structures but referred further questions to Shamu. “The audit of the structures is ongoing but you can get more from Shamu,” he said.
However, Shamu declined to comment saying he was not at liberty to give details over the phone.
“I am no longer entertaining interviews over the phone because some people misquote and misuse the information we give them,” he said.
The party insiders said about 20 officials from Zanu PF headquarters recently visited the deeply divided Bulawayo province to audit structures from cell to provincial level.
A team led by politburo member and Mines minister Obert Mpofu and central committee member Jonathan Moyo descended on Matabeleland North last Saturday where they sacked provincial chairman Zenzo Ncube for alleged incompetence.
Mpofu told journalists that Ncube was replaced by Zwelitsha Masuku for failing to build vibrant structures in Matabeleland North.
Sources said the team that visited Bulawayo was greeted by skeletal districts which needed urgent co-option before the Zanu PF 15 to 18 December conference slated for Marymount Teachers’ College in Mutare.
“Shamu has started verification of districts in provinces and a 20-member team was in Bulawayo on Thursday last week to audit the organs. It emerged that the structures have no members,” said one top official.
Faith Zaba/Brian Chitemba