THE commander of One Presidential Guard Infantry Battalion at State House, Lieutenant-Colonel Samson Murombo, was sidelined from commanding the parade at the Defence Forces Day commemorations on Tuesday this week after a nasty fallout with First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa.
BRIDGET MANANAVIRE/NYASHA CHINGONO
In a heated exchange recorded in a widely circulated audio, Auxillia accused Murombo of snooping on her and the first family’s movements at a time of growing tensions between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and some sections of the military. She also accused him of plotting to harm her and Mnangagwa. Murombo was at the receiving end of a verbal tirade by Auxillia who accused him of a number of issues spanning spying, trailing and an assassination plot.
In the recorded phone call leaked to various social media platforms, Auxillia begins by challenging Murombo to a physical showdown before later breaking down and asking him to spare her life because she is a woman with kids. Auxillia tells Murombo to go and kill Mnangagwa instead.
The audio brought to light the escalating brinkmanship between Mnangagwa and his ailing deputy Constantino Chiwenga as they are locked in a titanic struggle to effectively control the country’s security apparatus. Mnangagwa and Chiwenga have tried to put up a public posture of unity, but insiders say it is fake comradeship.
While Murombo looked dejected during Defence Forces Day commemorations under the VIP tent where he was relegated to a mere spectator, his junior and Commanding Officer of Two Presidential Guard Battalion in Dzivaresekwa, Lieutenant-Colonel Honesty Mangezi, took charge of over 300 troops on parade.
Although the two share the same rank within the same battalion, security sources told the Independent Murombo is senior by virtue of joining the army earlier and being promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel first. Murombo, military sources say, was one of the first officers to graduate from the Zimbabwe Military Academy (ZMA) in Gweru.
Mangezi also graduated from the ZMA, but well after Murombo had joined the army, it was said.
“Such parades are normally commanded by the Commander of One PG which is situated at State House, but this was not the case this year after the audio leak. It was clear he was sidelined. What we don’t know, however, is whether it was a directive from above because of the fallout or whether the decision was made by military commanders to protect Murombo from the spotlight,” a military source said.
Murombo only joined the parade at the end.
Since the November 2017 military coup which dramatically toppled long-time ruler Robert Mugabe, Mnangagwa and Chiwenga, who was the commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces at the time, have been using the military and other security sector instruments and state institutions as well as the ruling Zanu PF structures to checkmate each other.
The sensational audio is said to have been in the context of the bombing incident in Bulawayo in June 2018.
Mnangagwa said it was an inside assassination plot. He did not say who was responsible.
“You’re spying on me,” Auxillia rails to Murombo on the phone, not giving him a chance to respond to the allegations even though he pleaded with her to hear him out.
Murombo is occasionally heard pleading: “Excuse me Your Excellency,” but the First Lady curtly responds: “Just tell me what you want from me because, if I die, it would be you.”
“Get away! I’m just a mere woman, a grandmother. Go and shoot Mnangagwa, I ask for a pardon. Don’t shoot me, I have children. Just shoot Mnangagwa, because I know this is all about him. Just go and shoot him, why do you want to shoot me? What have I done? What threat do I pose to you Murombo? I don’t even know your wife. I don’t discuss politics, I don’t discuss military issues. I’m coming to your office.
“You draw your confidence from the fact that you have a gun. I’m coming there and you can shoot me. If you don’t shoot me before I get there, we’ll kill each other in your office.”
The First Lady also claimed she was aware of a plot to kill Mnangagwa and said those who wanted to do so could go ahead, but leave her alone because she had children to look after.
She went on to describe Murombo as a man with an “ugly face”, who was “trying to get to Mnangagwa through me”.