PRESSURE is mounting on President Robert Mugabe from Zanu PF hardliners and securocrats to boot out Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) boss Happyton Bonyongwe from his post ahead of crucial elections expected next year as the ghosts of 2008 return to haunt them.
Report by Our Staff Writers
Top intelligence sources told the Zimbabwe Independent this week Zanu PF party hardliners and sections of the security establishment want the CIO spy chief kicked out because of his links to former Finance minister Simba Makoni’s Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn party and the late former army commander General Solomon Mujuru. He is also alleged to have been part of the bhora musango (anyone but Mugabe) protest strategy during the 2008 elections.
Mugabe suffered a shock defeat in the first round of polling before storming back through a vicious campaign of terror and brutality. Zanu PF for the first time lost its parliamentary majority.
Bonyongwe, a retired brigadier, was accused of supporting Makoni, not Mugabe. Mujuru, who reportedly recommended Bonyongwe to become the CIO director-general, was behind Makoni, something which former Zanu PF politburo heavyweight Dumiso Dabengwa recently confirmed. Dabengwa and Mujuru tried hard to oust Mugabe in the run up to the 2008 elections.
Senior army and intelligence officers are already being suggested to take over at CIO if Bonyongwe goes.
CIO deputy director Daniel Tonde Nhepera, Isaac Moyo who is the Executive Secretary of the African Union Committee of Intelligence and Security Service in Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and CIO director (external affairs) Amon Mutembwa, among others are touted as potential successors.
Brigadier-General Nhamo Sanyatwa, head of the presidential guard, has also been mentioned as a possible candidate for the top intelligence post. Sanyatwa is reportedly in China for training on military and intelligence matters. However, some say he might not be suitable for the job due to undisclosed “professional” reasons.
Although CIO director-internal Andrew Muzonzini and Albert Ngulube are also senior directors, they have not been mentioned as potential Bonyongwe successors.
“This issue has been there for some time now, even before the 2008 elections. However, there is renewed pressure to remove Bonyongwe ahead of the next elections because of what happened during the 200 polls. Zanu PF hardliners and some members on the Joint Operations Command want him to go,” said a senior intelligence officer. “Because he is seen as someone who was part of the bhora musango strategy, there is big debate whether to continue with him or not as we go towards the elections.
His connection to the Mujuru faction and Makoni makes his case worse.”
Intelligence sources say Bonyongwe’s enemies are trying to find more ground to justify their demand for his removal. Those pushing for his ouster are also trying to raise the issue of his family’s 5% shareholding, through Brinski Investments (Pvt) Ltd, in Interfin Financial Services Ltd (IFSL), which owns the troubled Interfin Bank. The bank was associated with the Mujuru faction.
Sources also say after Bonyongwe has been under pressure, mainly since last year when the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks revealed he was associated with Makoni and the anti-Mugabe lobby during the 2008 elections.
According to leaked American embassy cables, Zanu PF politburo member Jonathan Moyo accused Bonyongwe of “doctoring” reports compiled by the CIO meant for Mugabe’s attention, mainly prior to the March 2008 elections.
Moyo told ex-US Ambassador Christopher Dell at a meeting on March 30 2007 Bonyongwe supported Makoni, who quit Zanu PF and challenged Mugabe during the 2008 polls.
“With regard to the CIO, Moyo said Mugabe had received information that CIO director-(general) Happyton Bonyongwe had been conferring with Solomon Mujuru,” read the cable.
“Furthermore, he (Moyo) had received information from CIO sub-directors that Bonyongwe was doctoring information. Believing Mujuru to be involved with both military and CIO dissension, Mugabe had summoned Mujuru.”
NMB managing director James Mushore, who is said to be a nephew of Mujuru, met US embassy officials on February 28 2008 and also indicated that Bonyongwe and his uncle supported Makoni’s candidacy.
“Mushore mused about an ideal scenario under which Solomon Mujuru and CIO chief Happyton Bonyongwe came out for Makoni two days before the election, insinuating Bonyongwe’s support for Makoni as well,” one of the cables said.
Senior Zanu PF officials and MPs revolted against Mugabe in 2008 under an operation codenamed “bhora musango” in which they canvassed support for themselves but not their leader.
Under the 2008 operation, the MPs called for people to vote for them alone and not Mugabe. Angered by the president’s refusal to leave power to the younger successor despite his declining public support, MPs last year threatened to resist Mugabe if he called for early elections.
In 2008, Mugabe lost to MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai. He had 43,2 % of the total votes compared to Tsvangirai’s 47,9% and Makoni who polled 8,3%. The Mujuru faction and Bonyongwe were widely blamed for that in intelligence circles. This has led to a renewed whispering campaign against the CIO boss who has been at the held since he replaced Elisha Muzonzini in 2003.
The security forces, including the army, police and intelligence services, are Mugabe and Zanu PF’s pillars of support. Mugabe and his party, whose structures have collapsed, rely on the security agencies and associated terror to hang onto power. “While many want Bonyongwe to go, it is a catch-22 situatio for Mugabe because if he doesn’t remove him, what happened in 2008 might be repeated in some ways, while if he removes him just before elections that might be destabilising,” a source said. “It looks like a damned if does, damned if doesn’t scenario.