THE government — which of late has been purging senior state security officials presumed to be close to former president Robert Mugabe — has expanded its crackdown to the civil service as it emerged this week that 13 permanent secretaries and dozens of other senior bureaucrats are facing the chop.
Sources told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that although the official reason given for their removal from office was that they were due for retirement after reaching the mandatory pensionable age of 65 for government officials, the affected permanent secretaries were largely those perceived to have been sympathetic to the vanquished Generation 40 (G40) faction in Zanu PF.
The move comes as government last week fired three Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) directors while two others were re-assigned as Emmerson Mnangagwa’s restless administration continues to remove senior security officers seen as sympathetic to Mugabe.
Senior government officials said the 13 permanent secretaries were verbally informed of their fate last week while written correspondence is expected to follow should Mnangagwa be confirmed as president by the Constitutional Court.
The Independent learnt that the affected 13 permanent secretaries include Ngoni Masoka (Labour and Social Welfare ministry); George Mlilo (Transport); Machivenyika Mapuranga (Higher Education ministry); Sylvia Utete-Masango (Primary and Secondary Education) and Melusi Matshiya, secretary for Home Affairs.
“Sweeping changes are coming across the entire civil service. After permanent secretaries are retired, they will move to directors and deputy directors,” a senior government official said. “We believe a wide-ranging purge is underway, applying to people who had ties to former president Mugabe. The purge is intended to get rid of everyone even remotely associated with him because the new guys want people they know are loyal to them.”
The permanent secretaries, who are principal accounting officers for their respective ministries, are largely being blamed for frustrating Mnangagwa’s ill-fated 100-day projects which he embarked on when he wrested power from Mugabe in a military coup last November as he sought a clean break from his long-time principal.
“They want to give the impression that this is all about the retirement age but everyone knows the politics behind it. You remember that, only recently, they increased the retirement age for those in the army to 70 years and this is being seen as a move to cushion them against the impending purges. They will even extend it to the lowest office bearers as a cover,” the source further said.
No official comment could be obtained from Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Misheck Sibanda, who is responsible for permanent secretaries, as his phone went unanswered.
Meanwhile, security sources told the Independent the reason behind Mnangagwa’s sacking of CIO directors last week was because they were among those suspected of giving him unreliable intelligence about his popularity ahead of the July 30 elections.
At recent security meetings, Mnangagwa reportedly accused the CIO of feeding accurate information to Mugabe, who appeared to know that Mnangagwa’s electoral nemesis Chamisa had gained tremendous popularity and posed a serious threat to his presidential ambitions.
Addressing a press conference a day before the elections, Mugabe said he was sure Chamisa had the edge over Mnangagwa. The highly contentious poll result indicated that Mnangagwa actually won by a wafer-thin margin after garnering 50,8% of the vote, which would ordinarily be just enough for one to form a government if there was no legal challenge.
“The actual motive behind the sacking was that the president thought they were still loyal to Mugabe. They were accused of being loyal to Mugabe which is now an unpardonable offence in this current administration. They will be replaced by people from the army. In fact, more heads are set to roll in the (CIO) department, including some people in the provinces,” an intelligence source said.
Those who were fired from the CIO include director—counter intelligence Musafare Nyamudahondo, director—technical department Charles Hwekwete and director of economics Jimias Madzingira.
In February, Mnangagwa initiated the biggest purge of CIO officers when he fired 17 senior operatives for allegedly being loyal to Mugabe. Among those dismissed at the beginning of the year were director—security Albert Ngulube, director—external Andrew Muzonzini, Kizito Gweshe deputy director counter intelligence and Tadzingaira Tachivei, assistant director—counter intelligence, who was recently arrested over alleged links to Mugabe, the former president’s aide de camp Wonder Nyakurima and many others.
Earlier in January, Mnangagwa had also fired 11 senior police officers who were alleged to be sympathetic to Mugabe and the former ZRP boss Augustine Chihuri.