THE Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) is on high alert after recalling soldiers on leave in an effort to thwart any disturbances that may erupt as the ongoing Zanu PF succession battle ahead of the party’s crucial December elective congress reaches its climax, the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt.
Sources also revealed the army had stopped officers from going off-duty ahead of the congress as the political and security situation deteriorates.
“Communication has been relayed to all relevant authorities to recall those on leave while off days have been suspended until further notice as the army is readying itself to combat any violence that may erupt as the race to succeed President Robert Mugabe hots up,” said a senior army officer.
The officer also said “whatever is happening in Zanu PF was a source of concern because it had increased political tension in the country and could lead to instability”.
Zanu PF is in turmoil ahead of the congress as rival factions, one led by Vice-President Joice Mujuru and the other by Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa battle to position themselves to succeed Mugabe who has been in power since 1980.
The Mnangagwa faction has joined hands with Mugabe’s wife Grace, who has been savagely attacking Mujuru lately, increasing tensions in the party. Relations within Zanu PF have deteriorated so much that public officials are now routinely trading insults in public.
Since January, the ZNA has been forcing its members to go on two weeks’ leave every month to reduce spending on food and utility bills at barracks. However, internal strife within Zanu PF has resulted in the army recalling soldiers who are off-duty.
Director of army public relations Lieutenant-Colonel Overson Mugwisi denied the army was watching Zanu PF developments closely although he said the army stands ready to defend the country.
“Our duty is to defend Zimbabwe from any external invasion and we are always ready to do so. We are not interested in Zanu PF’s internal issues; that is not part of our mandate,” Mugwisi said.
But contrary to Mugwisi’s claims that the army is not interested in Zanu PF’s internal matters, the military has a history of interfering in partisan politics to prop up Zanu PF whenever its continued rule is under threat and is widely seen as the power behind Mugabe’s throne.
The army has been deployed in the run-up to elections covertly and sometimes openly to execute commissariat duties for Zanu PF, particularly during the presidential election run-off in 2008 after Mugabe lost the first round of elections to MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai, in flagrant violation of the Defence Act.
The army launched a violent campaign during the run-off to ensure Mugabe’s re-election.
Zanu PF has now formally employed former air vice-marshal Henry Muchena and ex-CIO director-internal Sydney Nyanhungo in the party’s commissariat department as it militarised its structures.