PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has moved to purge senior military officials seconded to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), a constitutional body which institutes criminal proceedings on behalf of the state, as part his ongoing power consolidation measures.
BY ANDREW KUNAMBURA
Mnangagwa has an uneasy relationship with his co-deputy Constantino Chiwenga, whose political manoeuvres since the November 2017 military coup that toppled Zimbabwe’s long-time leader Robert Mugabe suggest he harbours presidential ambitions.
Chiwenga, who was commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces at the time, orchestrated the coup which brought Mnangagwa into power. The two erstwhile allies have however fallen out because of Chiwenga’s presidential ambitions.
Mnangagwa is fully exploiting the power of the incumbency to decimate Chiwenga’s military power base.
In February this year, Mnangagwa retired three major-generals and an air vice-Marshal aligned to Chiwenga from the military and reassigned them to the diplomatic service, taking them off active military duties and command.
These are former commander of the Presidential Guard Anselem Sanyatwe, who directed the coup on the ground. He also commanded a standby force that quelled last August’s post-election violence which left at least six people dead and the civil unrest that rocked the country in January claiming 17 lives.
Also discharged from the military were major-generals Douglas Nyikayaramba, Martin Chedondo and former air vice-marshal Shebba Shumbayaonda, all of whom have since joined foreign mission posts.
Authoritative sources at the NPA and the Justice ministry said a similar purge is underway at the institution, where three officials from the army have since been sent packing.
The NPA, which was created in 2014 after Mugabe signed the NPA Act into law paving way for the operationalisation of the prosecuting authority which used to be part of the Attorney-General’s Office, is stuffed with 160 military officers, constituting almost three-quarters of its staff compliment.
Their appointment raised eyebrows after it emerged that they were assigned civilian roles, while still serving in the army, in violation of the constitution.
Most of them were seconded from the army, air force, police and prison services to the civilian body even without the required law degrees.
According to senior NPA officials, Prosecutor-General Kumbirai Hodzi last week informed the director of administration Solomon Siziba, Major Levy Msipa (administration and finance executive) and Lieutenant-Colonel Garikai Manyeruke (human resources executive) that their services were no longer required.
Through letters, Hodzi advised them that they needed to revert back to their military roles.
Sources said Hodzi was acting on behalf of Mnangagwa.
Both government and NPA sources said Manyeruke and Msipa have already left the NPA, although Siziba is resisting the decision.
As such a farewell party which had been arranged for him for today is now in doubt.
More military officers are also set to lose their NPA positions in the coming months, according to the sources.
A government source said: “Mnangagwa is keen on demilitarising or removing the army officers not loyal to him at the NPA.
Siziba, Manyeruke and Msipa are leaving. This is being seen as part of his broader plan to remove those aligned to Chiwenga from key positions. If this was a genuine decision to professionalise the NPA, then we should see more of those seconded from the security forces, including the police and the prisons service, being removed. So far, we have seen only the top army officers being kicked out and this shows that this is not a conventional reassignment.”
A senior NPA official said the purges are being orchestrated “from the top”, suggesting they are not emanating from Hodzi’s office.
“There are things coming from the top.
We don’t think these are his (Hodzi’s) decisions,” the official said.
“Manyeruke and Msipa have since returned to the army, but from the look of things they may have problems with Siziba.
He is supposed to leave on Friday (today), but he is resisting. He wants to continue for two more years in an acting capacity. But I am sure he will not be allowed to continue because it looks like the decision is cast in stone. A farewell party which had been planned for him is now in doubt,” the source added.
Hodzi declined to comment on the developments when contacted by the Zimbabwe Independent on Wednesday saying he was not qualified to do so.
“Can you talk to my corporate affairs department, that department handles all the press,” said.
Efforts to get comment from NPA corporate affairs officer Angeline Munyeriwa were unsuccessful as her mobile phone was not reachable while she did not respond to text messages.
Permanent secretary in the Justice ministry Virginia Mabhiza also refused to comment, referring questions back to Hodzi.
“Maybe the best person to confirm that is the Prosecutor-General himself. I am not sure of any dismissals,” she said.
Other senior military officers reportedly being targeted for purging are captains Cleopas Mapfumo (administration manager) and Callisto Chafadza (human resources manager) as well as an M Chirau from the Air Force of Zimbabwe who runs the ICT department.
The purges come despite claims by Hodzi last year that no one would be kicked out of the organisation.
“Let me make it very clear because there has been a lot of miscommunication about that. Nobody is leaving the NPA.
In fact, we are in the process of recruiting plenty more,” he said then.