AHEAD of crucial general elections next week, Alpha Media Holdings Group Planning Editor Brian Mangwende (BM) interviewed former Air Force of Zimbabwe Vice-Air Marshal Henry Muchena (HM), who is now principal director in the Zanu PF commissariat, on President Robert Mugabe and his party’s chances of winning the polls.
Find below the excerpts:
BM: When you retired from the Air Force in June 2010, you later joined Zanu PF’s commissariat department. What is your role and title there?
HM: My title is principal director for the commissariat. I form part of the commissariat department that is responsible for organising the party structures. I joined Zanu PF in January 2011.
BM: Are you involved in the on-going election campaigns?
HM: Of course, I am. That is part of my role in the party.
BM: How have the campaigns been going on so far, vis-a-vis those of 2008 which Mugabe says he does not want a repeat of?
HM: In our view, the present campaign has gone on very well. It has not been marred by violence and we believe whoever had an interest in campaigning, has had a fair chance to do so.
BM: Do you think Mugabe and Zanu PF will win these elections and why?
HM: I don’t think President Mugabe and Zanu PF will win, I know President Mugabe and Zanu PF will win!
BM: There has been a lot of controversy and mixed takings over the role of both active and retired army commanders and security personnel in politics and electoral processes. Do you think your role is justified?
HM: It is definitely justified. When people join the military, they serve the country and the state, but when they retire, they are free to join any political party of their persuasion. And this is not only within Zanu PF, it is also quite prevalent in the MDC parties and most political parties in Zimbabwe.
For example, retired Major Giles Mutsekwa joined MDC-T and retired Colonel Ray Ncube is with his newly-formed Zapu party; so, I don’t believe they should be exceptions when it comes to Zanu PF. As for serving members, they are guided by professional ethics which dictate that they remain apolitical in their activities, but it doesn’t make them stooges who cannot have political persuasions of their own and it is their constitutional right as citizens of the country to do that.
BM: There have been heightened reports that the military has been deployed in various parts of the country to vigorously campaign for Mugabe and Zanu PF. What do you know about that?
HM: Those reports are fabrications and imaginations of people who are scared of losing elections. Why are we not complaining about those former service personnel campaigning for other political parties? As far as I know, serving personnel are not involved in campaigns for Zanu PF, but retired personnel and war veterans who are in the structures of the party. They have every right to campaign for the party and even stand in constituencies as candidates for the party.
BM: If that’s the case, what do you make of public statements by senior army commanders who say they support Mugabe and Zanu PF while rejecting any possible victory for Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai?
HM: Let me put their statements into context. When those statements were made, the service chiefs said they will not salute a commander-in-chief who does not respect the values of the liberation struggle, therefore, they did not say Tsvangiari or anybody else. It is important to note that the ballot we talk about today came as substitution to the bullet that was used during the liberation struggle and so any Zimbabwean worth his or her salt has to respect the values of the liberation struggle and the principles for which thousands of Zimbabweans died for.
BM: Zanu PF primaries were characterised by chaos. Were you involved and why is it several security people participated in the process?
HM: There were no security people in the process of the Zanu PF primaries, but as I mentioned earlier, former security personnel who were interested in contesting primaries for Zanu PF were free to do so.
BM: On a scale of one to 10, how do you rate the way the primaries were conducted?
HM: I would give Zanu PF primaries a seven.
BM: If Tsvangirai were to win elections next week, what would be your response and what do you think will be the reaction of senior army commanders?
HM: First, he is not going to win, but if the unthinkable happens and the people of Zimbabwe decide to use the ballot to be recolonised, it would be the people’s decision.
BM: After Mugabe lost the first round of the 2008 presidential poll, the army is said to have intervened to save the situation. Where you in any way involved?
HM: First of all, President Mugabe did not lose the election, but there was no clear winner and hence a run-off. As security personnel, we did our best to maintain peace in the country, while political parties intensified their campaigns for the final election.
BM: As part of commissariat, what was your role in the dissolution of Zanu PF’s district co-ordinating committees (DCCs)?
HM: I had no role in the dissolution of DCCs. It was a recommendation from the politburo to the central committee and that dissolution was endorsed by the central committee.
BM: There have been numerous reports of factionalism within Zanu PF and you have been linked to a faction reportedly led by Vice-President Joice Mujuru against one allegedly led by Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa. What’s your comment?
HM: I know of no factions in Zanu PF and therefore I have no reason to belong to what I believe does not exist. In my view, the factions spoken about are perceptions of people outside Zanu PF like yourselves who are trying to ferment divisions within the party.
BM: Lastly, can you please tell us who Henry Muchena is?
HM: First of all, I am an ex-combatant. After Independence, I joined the Zimbabwe National Army and later transferred to the Air Force of Zimbabwe and served until my retirement. That’s all I have to say about myself.