HARARE – Senior secret service operatives who were put on one-year renewable contracts after reaching their retirement age have now been released from the CIO.
Reports also suggest that there are some senior officers whose employment contracts were terminated as well even though they were still to reach retirement age, although this could not be verified at the time of going to print.
“Most of the people were given their letters of termination last week. Those who were affected had, in most cases, reached the age of 55. There were some, however, who had not reached that age but were also affected by the changes,” a high-level source told the Daily News last week.
“Most of those affected had retired and were on yearly contracts… Most of those affected are war veterans and other career agents who were hanging onto their jobs because of the camaraderie that existed between them and their superiors”.
Efforts to get a comment from Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, who is responsible for both the intelligence and defence portfolios, were fruitless.
The new CIO director-general, Isaac Moyo, was also not available for comment.
Since assuming office late last year, Mnangagwa’s administration has made far-reaching changes in the security services, perhaps to get loyalists in strategic positions while getting rid of those who were sympathetic to his predecessor — ousted former president Robert Mugabe.
In the CIO, Mnangagwa appointed Moyo — the country’s former ambassador to South Africa — to head the secretive spy service ahead of Aaron Nhepera whom many thought was a shoo in for the position.
Nhepera was the acting spy chief until December 8 when Moyo was made CIO director-general.
Mnangagwa also rang changes in the Zimbabwe Defence Forces and the Zimbabwe Republic Police where long-serving commissioner-general Augustine Chihuri was retired.
The changes, according to analysts, are meant to strengthen Mnangagwa’s hand by getting rid of spies perceived to be loyal to Mugabe and the vanquished Generation 40 (G40) cabal.
G40 had fought a bitter war of attrition against Team Lacoste but could not stand a chance when the military showed its muscle last November by staging a soft coup that targeted its members, including Mugabe.
Several G40 functionaries were arrested on a litany of allegations during the month-long military intervention, while others had to skip the country.
The changes in the security sector are also meant to support Finance and Economic Development minister Patrick Chinamasa’s austerity measures that include trimming government expenditure.
Currently, over 70 percent of the national budget is going towards staff costs.
To rein in runaway expenditure, Chinamasa has adopted a policy to retire those who have reached the retirement age.
While the retirement age for civil servants is 65, in the secret service officers can exit the service at 55, if not earlier.
Because of the mistrusts currently obtaining between Mnangagwa’s administration and security personnel who were close to Mugabe, the changes do not come as a surprise.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure opined recently that after going through a transition of the nature witnessed in Zimbabwe, it was inevitable that such clean-up of State security institutions would follow.
Mnangagwa rode to power with the help of the military after his Team Lacoste faction had been completely overwhelmed by G40.
When it stepped in, the military did not seek assistance from the police or the CIO.
In fact, it clamped down on these two security institutions because they were thought to be loyal to Mugabe and G40.
Masunungure has observed that the Lacoste faction was now cleaning any G40-infested institution, among them the police and the CIO, which is now headed by a Mnangagwa loyalist.
“The CIO was also perceived to be a pillar of the G40 camp. I don’t think it will end there but will extend to other departments of government — it was expected that the vanquished faction will pay a heavy price,” said Masunungure.
Other analysts have criticised the shake-up of security services as akin to a cleansing exercise targeting those who supped with the G40 faction.
They argued that security sector reform entails reorienting, retraining officers, changing training curriculums to embrace more rights based and non-adversarial approaches, changing service charters, among other things.
Political analyst, Maxwell Saungweme, argued recently that what is currently obtaining is political factional cleansing and purging of G40-aligned service women and men, adding that the whole exercise does not transform the security sector into a professional outfit but politicises it.
“The idea is to remain with Lacoste aligned and loyal service women and men. These reduce our security service to be political running dogs of the ruling faction than a professional service loyal to country.
“Calling what is happening security sector reform is ignorant and uninformed. Proper reforms are preceded by proper human resources and skills audit of the force, consultation around which model of reforms is ideal and then do the reforms.
“What is happening is just like how G40 ministers were chased around. That was not reform but factional purging,” said Saungweme. – Daily News