THE appointment of retired Major-General Mike Nyambuya to head the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board last week underlined government’s continued deliberate militarisation of key institutions despite concerns from various stakeholders.
Former senior security personnel have been deployed to parastatals and key state institutions in a move largely seen as an attempt by President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF to entrench patronage and loyalty, given the military’s often crucial interventions in propping him and his party up during elections.
The security sector is credited with masterminding the June 2008 bloody presidential run-off in which Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out citing Zanu PF’s terror campaign in which 200 MDC supporters were allegedly killed.
Key parastatals and strategic public institutions in which ex-military personnel hold sway include the National Railways of Zimbabwe, Grain Marketing Board (GMB), Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ), Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings (ZBH), Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe and Zimpapers.
Other money-spinning companies in which the government has a stake such as Mbada Diamonds and Anjin, exploiting diamonds at Chiadzwa under shady circumstances, are also under the firm grip of ex-military chiefs.
The secretariat of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), which plays arguably the most crucial role in the country’s electoral process, has been dominated by military officials since 2000 with the likes of army chief-of-staff (quartermaster) Major-General Douglas Nyikayaramba and Justice George Chiweshe once heading the organisation.
In a suspicious move, Nyikayaramba was reported to have retired from the army to become chief elections officer at the then Electoral Supervisory Commission in 2002 and 2005 polls, only to return as commander of 3 Brigade in Mutare after his “mission” at the elections body had been accomplished. Zec’s current deputy chief elections officer is Utoile Silaigwana, a retired soldier.
Zanu PF rivals say Zec secretariat is staffed by state security agents deployed to manipulate election results.
Even on the diplomatic front, former security personnel have been deployed to head foreign missions.
Among ex-military commanders deployed at Zimbabwe’s diplomatic missions are ambassador to Cuba retired major-general Jevan Maseko, ambassador to Kenya and former Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) director-general retired Brigadier-General Elisha Muzonzini, and the ambassador to Tanzania retired Major-General Edzai Chimonyo. The CIO itself is headed by retired Brigadier-General Happyton Bonyongwe, while Zimbabwe Prison Services is under retired Major-General Paradzai Zimondi.
Zimbabwe’s ambassador to South Africa Phelekezela Mphoko is also an ex-military man. The ambassador to Mozambique is retired Brigadier-General Agrippa Mutambara.
Retired soldiers like Colonel Christian Katsande, now the deputy chief secretary to the president and cabinet, and retired Colonel Joseph Mhakayakora, a director in the ministry of construction, have also been in public administration for years. The ministry of health’s permanent secretary is retired Brigadier-General Gerald Gwinji.
Pedzisai Ruhanya, director of the newly formed Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, says militarisation of the state is “a well-defined strategy to reward Zanu PF-aligned former security personnel who assist their oligarchical party to maintain its hegemonic hold on power”.