PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has held two consecutives meetings with anxious service chiefs following his warning last Thursday against their succession manoeuvres which could amount to a coup. This came amid growing uncertainty over the future of Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) commander General Constantino Chiwenga, the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt.
By Elias Mambo
Addressing the Zanu PF Women’s League national assembly at the Zanu PF headquarters in Harare, Mugabe told the military to remain in the barracks. He said in Zanu PF “politics leads the gun; not the other way round” in remarks widely seen as targeting Chiwenga, who of late has been making political statements.
Chiwenga is considered to be a pillar of strength for the faction supporting Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s presidential bid. The Mnanagwa faction is engaged in a war of attrition with the G40 camp which has coalesced around First Lady Grace Mugabe.
Sources said Mugabe met Chiwenga, Air Force of Zimbabwe commander Air Marshal Perence Shiri, Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri, Prisons commissioner retired Major-General Paradzai Zimondi and the Central Intelligence boss Happyton Bonyongwe since last week.
“On Friday Mugabe met with Chiwenga and Shiri in a closed-door meeting at the National Defence College,” said a security official.
“He also held a luncheon on Tuesday with all the security service chiefs where he has tried to manage them after openly attacking them for dabbling in politics”
High-level sources told the Independent Mugabe’s sole target is Chiwenga, who is viewed as a stumbling block to his succession plans.
Chiwenga’s contract has expired and he could be retired anytime from now.
Mugabe and the G40 faction prefer that Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi succeed the president.
Top government officials privy to the issue said Mugabe could soon remove Chiwenga as ZDF commander — a position he has held since 2004 — and deploy him to the Zanu PF politburo or government for political reasons.
However, in the meetings with Mugabe this week, sources said Chiwenga reportedly set conditions to be deployed as the Zanu PF commissar to replace Saviour Kasukuwere if he is to leave his current position in the military.
Mnangagwa in 2015 referred to Chiwenga as “our political commissar,” evoking historical roles where Chiwenga served as the liberation struggle political commissar.
Addressing a youth interface rally in Chinhoyi last Saturday, Mugabe hinted he would retire some generals and accommodate them in government to cushion them against joblessness.
“We give immense respect to our defence forces. Most of those in leadership are persons we were with outside the country and we continue to respect them as revolutionaries,” he said. “Yes, they will retire and we must find room for them in government so they don’t languish, so they continue the struggle now, political struggle together with all of us in the leadership of the country and this is what we expect to happen.”