How relationships formed in army barracks could be key to Zanu-PF retaining power in Zimbabwe

If Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his deputy‚ retired army general Constantino Chiwenga‚ were footballers they could be paralleled to Xavi and Iniesta‚ once teammates at Barcelona and the Spanish national team.

By James Thompson

“They didn’t seize power to just hand it over‚” MDC Alliance’s Tendai Biti once told journalists.

Mnangagwa and Chiwenga know very well that they need to legitimise their reign and‚ as such‚ they are leaving no stone unturned on the campaign trail. While Mnangagwa goes about his presidential duties‚ his deputy has been flying in a chopper from village to village drumming up support for the ruling party. On average‚ he is addressing three rallies a day in rural areas which are historically Zanu-PF strongholds.

At a rally in Murewa‚ 75km north of Harare‚ on Thursday‚ Chiwenga narrated events that led to the resignation of Mugabe – before assuring party supporters that everything would come full circle when they vote for Mnangagwa. He then moved on to lure voters with political mantras.

“We want to rehabilitate all clinics and hospitals to ensure that they are fully stocked with drugs and they are electrified‚ so our people do not walk for long distances to access healthcare‚” he said.

Chiwenga is not a novice when it comes to commissariat work. During the liberation war, under the name “Dominic Chinenge”, he was the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA)’s deputy political commissar.

According to WikiLeaks cables of 2011‚ some serving army generals at the time viewed Chiwenga as a “political general with little practical military experience”.

His interest in political affairs would later agitate Mugabe‚ who once barked that Chiwenga should be confined to the barracks because he had a lot of interest in Zanu-PF’s political affairs.

But political analysts warn that Chiwenga’s stakeholder interest in getting Zanu-PF voted into power will solidify his entitlement in succeeding Mnangagwa one day.

“It’s the first time in the history of Zanu-PF that you find a person who is meant to be appointed doing the bidding for the candidate in this manner. What it simply shows us is that Zanu-PF has moved from one centre of power‚” said Sindiso Mazibisa.

At a funeral that presented a campaign opportunity a fortnight ago‚ Chiwenga freely told party supporters that the military was behind Mnangagwa’s survival when he fled the country. In his speech he revealed that it was him and his then deputy‚ General Philip Valerio Sibanda‚ who plotted the great escape.

“When the then vice president (Mnangagwa) was fired from government in November last year I was in China on national duty. General Sibanda called me to advise me of the sad development. I told him comrade Mnangagwa’s life could be at stake‚ please make sure he is safe‚” he said.

After the fall of Mugabe‚ numerous army officers retired from the army‚ chief among them‚ retired Lieutenant General Sibusiso Moyo – who is now minister of foreign affairs and international trade – and former air force commander Perence Shiri (born Bigboy Samson Chikerema)‚ the minister of lands‚ agriculture and rural resettlement.

Dr Philani Moyo from Fort Hare University in South Africa said the sudden involvement of politicians with a military background in Zanu-PF eclipsing ordinary politicians will give Chiwenga a backing in an event that a power tussle begins within the party.

Source: TimesLive