THE Zimbabwe National Army has not renewed Brigadier-General Fidelis Satuku’s contract, while his counterpart Brigadier-General Herbert Chingono has been confined to the “officers’ pool” in what is seen as punishment for secretly meeting former United States ambassador to Harare Charles Ray in 2010. Chingono was quoted leaked diplomatic cables describing Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander General Constantine Chiwenga as a “political general” who has “very little practical military experience or expertise”.
Relations between the two brigadier-generals and Chiwenga deteriorated in 2011 after leaked WikiLeaks cables revealed details of the meetings with Ray.
Chiwenga, whom military officers say was hurt by the assessment of the generals, pushed for disciplinary action to be taken against the duo, resulting in investigations being initiated, but the move divided the army and senior Zanu PF officials who were implicated in the WikiLeaks scandal causing the probe to becalled off.
The army, however, halted promotions for the two senior officers and ensured they are not given prominent roles despite their expertise and knowledge, before eventually offloading Satuku this year.
“Chiwenga has never truly forgiven the two generals since the cables were published. So they were being treated with suspicion although many senior officers, as well as the men and women in the army, respected them because of their deep knowledge and expertise. Both are well-read and competent commanders,” said an officer.
“At the time the cables were published, Satuku, who was the ZDF Director-General for Policy and Personnel, was studying in Pakistan. He was earmarked to run the Zimbabwe Defence College (ZDC) on his return, but was however, overlooked for the job.
“After being given virtually nothing to do over the years, he was finally laid off and is now concentrating on farming in Odzi, in his home province of Manicaland, although he is from Nyanga.”
The ZDC was officially opened by President Robert Mugabe in September 2012. It is mandated with conducting training on the formulation of a comprehensive national security strategy.
At the time the cables were published, Chingono was the Inspector-General in the Zimbabwe National Army and was tipped for promotion to the rank of major-general.
The promotion was, however, halted. He was asked to stop reporting for work while investigations were being carried out.
Chiwenga and his backers wanted Chingono and Satuku charged with “treason or subversion” for secretly meeting Ray to discuss Zimbabwe’s “sensitive military issues” and politics in contravention of the Defence Forces Act, their code of conduct and ethics.
In September 2011, Zimbabwe national Army (ZNA) spokesperson Colonel Overson Mugwisi confirmed to the Zimbabwe Independent the two army generals were under investigation.
“WikiLeaks is a new phenomenon. But in internal matters to do with discipline, we investigate and then take appropriate action,” Mugwisi said then.
“Where there is need for public consumption of the findings, we make our findings public. In this case, we are likely to do that.”
Both Satuku and Chingono are war veterans and widely respected in the army. They are considred as some of the best brains in the army.
Chingono is an artillery officer and was the last ZNA officer to train under the International Military Education and Training programme at the US’ National Defence University where he graduated in 1999.
Satuku received his military training in Britain.