FOLLOWING controversial remarks by senior Zanu PF officials, Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa and party spokesperson Rugare Gumbo, that the military would not accept an MDC-T victory in the next elections, it has become increasingly clear security service chiefs are geared to defend their massive wealth accumulated during extended periods of looting of public resources by President Robert Mugabe’s regime.
Report by Staff writers
Chinamasa and Gumbo’s remarks –– which follow similar threats by three senior army commanders Major-Generals Douglas Nyikayaramba, Martin Chedondo and Trust Mugoba –– have further thrust the military into the spotlight, showing they are prepared to fight to defend not just Mugabe and Zanu PF, but their riches.
Zimbabwe’s military is already on the ground campaigning for Mugabe and his party.
Senior army commanders, mainly deployed in Manicaland, have warned they would fight to preserve the status quo.
What the military is not saying publicly is that its commanders fear losing their assets and privileges if Mugabe and his party are defeated.
Local military chiefs, who have become fat cats, are some of the richest in the region. They own businesses, farms, safaris, huge houses and big cars, among other assets, courtesy of Zanu PF’s patronage network.
They have also been deployed in various state institutions where they are drawing huge salaries and allowances.
The military is also playing a pivotal role in money-spinning companies in which the government has a stake such as Mbada Diamonds and Anjin Investments, which are exploiting diamonds in Chiadzwa under shady circumstances amid concerns of looting.
Police and intelligence services were also involved in diamonds mining.
Insiders say top army bosses, particularly Zimbabwe Defence Forces Constantine Chiwenga commander, have become extremely rich and own several farms, houses and luxury vehicles.
Some of the generals’ wealth can be traced back to the Democratic Republic of Congo war where they creamed off that country’s mineral wealth through military companies at the height of the campaign to prop the late Laurent Kabila’s regime.
Insiders say Chiwenga, for instance, is by all measures now a rich man as he controls a diverse portfolio of companies, properties, including upmarket houses and commercial assets, among other investments.
Chiwenga reportedly owns luxury vehicles, among them a Toyota Land Cruiser V8, Land Rover Discovery, Prado, Jeep and two Mercedes Benz.
The country’s top general also has several posh houses in such areas as Borrowdale Brooke, Greystone Park and Glen Lorne, among other plush suburbs.
Sources said Chiwenga also had interests in several companies, among them Brimstone Investments, Lighthouse Investments, Ventilux (Pvt) Ltd, Hidecote Investments, Albacore Investments (Pvt) Ltd and Moorhead Investments (Pvt) Ltd.
Chiwenga also owns Kazungula Wildlife Safaris.
In all, sources say Chiwenga owns over 20 properties and assets, making him one of the richest public servants.
“The reason why the military is threatening to defy the people’s will after the next elections has less to do with their involvement in the liberation struggle but more to do with their current material condition and privilege,” a senior military source said.
“Zimbabwe’s army commanders are some of the richest, if not the richest, in the region. For that reason, mainly, they will fight to keep Mugabe and Zanu PF in power.”
Currently a number of serving and retired military officers, including Major- General Engelbert Rugeje, Retired Brigadier-General Gibson Mashingaidze and Brigadier-General Livingstone Chineka are scrambling for safaris at the world’s biggest private wildlife park, Save Conservancy in Masvingo.
Virtually all military commanders were allocated some of the best farms during the chaotic land reform programme before benefiting from the agricultural mechanisation programme in which they received state-of-the-art equipment such as combine harvesters, planters and tractors practically for free and now the wildlife-based indigenisation process.
Although the senior army officers, like other top government officials including ministers, earn low salaries, they have big perks and allowances which have made it easy for them to accumulate wealth, hence their loyalty to Mugabe and Zanu PF.
The Pretoria-based Institute of Security Studies (ISS) says Zimbabwe’s military commanders – whose lifestyle are out of sync with the economic trends in the country – are even wealthier than their counterparts in South Africa, the continent’s largest economy by far.
“No one, at least in the uniformed forces in the region, South Africa included, has what Zimbabwe’s generals have appropriated for themselves over the years,” said Dr Gwinyai Dzinesa, a senior researcher at ISS.
“We cannot compare the wealth of the army chiefs in Zimbabwe to any other uniformed forces personnel in the region. Zimbabwe boasts some of the richest army commanders and the source of their wealth remains a mystery.”
To protect their positions and wealth, the military has over the years played a key role in campaigning for Mugabe and Zanu PF. In the June 2008 presidential election runoff, the army embarked on a bloody reign of terror to rescue Mugabe who had lost the first round of elections to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
Top military commanders, including Nyikayaramba, Mugoba and Chedondo have come out in the open declaring their allegiance to Zanu PF, in what was seen as a clear indication the army was not ready to relinquish the political role it has been playing to protect its interests.
The Zanu PF commissariat department is also now militarised after former Air Vice-Marshal Henry Muchena and ex-Central Intelligence Organisation director- internal Sydney Nyanhongo took over the running of the department. Many retired members of the security forces want to contest the next elections to get into parliament on Zanu PF tickets.
High-ranking military officers are currently campaigning for Zanu PF in Manicaland and Masvingo provinces which the party views at the battleground regions in the next do-or-die elections.