HARARE – The embattled Zimbabwean President Mnangagwa has accused unnamed “detractors” of plotting his election defeat by wantonly increasing prices of basic commodities.
Addressing the ruling Zanu PF’s Soviet-style politburo, Mnangagwa vowed to crack down on these faceless enemies.
“The usual machinations and heinous acts of our country’s detractors to reverse our development agenda are glaring. This is evidenced by their antics and asymmetrical tactics which include the attack on our currency and the wanton increase in prices of basic commodities.”
He continued: “Asi vakanyangira yaona (we’re aware of their plot). They will never succeed, and the perpetrators are being brought to book. Just after my announcement of the proclamation of the elections, two days later we were under attack.”
Tensions are mounting within state security structures and government, as well as Zanu PF, over the role being played by the shadowy Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO)-run Forever Associates Zimbabwe (Faz) which has unconstitutionally seized control of the running of the 2023 elections to retain President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the ruling party in power.
Investigations by the local media have shown that senior army commanders, both serving and retired, are sceptical, suspicious and even resentful of the role being played by Faz which has displaced them from their decades-old feeding trough of unconstitutionally and unlawfully running elections.
Faz, which is well-resourced with money and cars, is led by CIO deputy director-general Walter Tapfumaneyi. It has thousands of officers and volunteers working through intelligence structures to door-to-door campaigns, night vigils, community events, technology-based messaging and monitoring all stages of the electoral process.
Insiders say Mnangagwa — who operates more like a securocrat than a civilian politician — has deployed Faz to ensure his re-election. However, some army commanders are against the idea.
A military source said: “The problem is a clash between politics and strategy. Things were just changed suddenly, without consultations, hence no proper planning. The move to sideline the army from the electoral process, replacing them with Faz, has caused deep divisions and tensions.”
One military commander said Faz could become a Frankenstein monster — a thing which destroys its creator — for Mnangagwa.
“As the army, we don’t know anything about Faz, except what we read in the media. Who are these people? What is their agenda and what will happen after the elections? We were not consulted when this structure was set up and put under CIO. Can they be able to campaign and win elections for Mnangagwa and Zanu PF? Do they have the capacity to do that? Since they are not a constitutional structure, what is the legality of what they are doing?”
Military chiefs are also complaining in the background that Faz is an unconstitutional entity and its activities involving the use of public funds are thus illegal.
Faz has been arbitrarily deployed to coordinate Zanu PF electoral activities on the ground, while at the same time checkmating the army that used to spearhead campaigns.
This has created a strategic brinkmanship between the army and CIO on the ground. FAZ — which has millions of dollars and hundreds of cars for campaigns — was revived and deployed last year to unconstitutionally run or influence the elections and their outcome. It was formed in 2010. Elections in Zimbabwe are run by securocrats to rescue Zanu PF and its leaders.
Past elections were coordinated through the Joint Operations Command (Joc), which brings together the army, intelligence and police. The military has been playing a key role in elections most prominently after 2000 when the opposition became strong.
Politicised military threatens 2023 poll
Fearing defeat largely due to internal sabotage, Mnangagwa brought in Faz and pushed the army to play a peripheral and marginal role by providing liaison officers through Heritage Trust, its front organisation.
Just like the military which has Heritage, Fairhaven which owns Africom or Rusununguko/Nkululeko Holdings, the CIO also acts through various front organisations such as Faz and Chiltern Trust.
Faz is coordinating Zanu PF structures, from cell, branches, districts, district coordinating committees, provinces, the national consultative assembly, central committee to politburo, as well as MPs at ward and constituency levels to ensure they run a tight ship.
Faz is supervising Zanu PF programmes throughout the constituencies, while motivating and directing lower party structures to participate in the electoral process, recently in voters’ roll inspection.
As reported by The NewsHawks last week, Faz has penetrated communities up to grassroots level and tightened its grip on the electoral process.
While Zanu PF has over many years leveraged the military and other state security agents — through Joc — which brings together the command element of security structure, there is concern that Faz is neither a proper security structure nor a constitutional creature.
“Faz is drawing resources illegally and using the logistics and infrastructure of the CIO to carry out its unconstitutional mandate, although it is run by a tiny section of the CIO. Unlike in the past, there is concern that Faz has been brazen in its operations, invading polling stations and collecting people’s identity documents whereas in the past interventions were more covert,” said a government official.
“The concern is that Faz is a personal army or militia belonging to the President and run by CIO deputy director-general Walter Tapfumaneyi. The group excludes some senior CIO staffers and other security agents.”
Sidelined army commanders aligned to Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, who ran the last elections and previous ones under the late former president Robert Mugabe, are sulking and furious about this strategy.
Faz has spread its tentacles to every ward in the country, collecting vital voters’ details right down to household level using an army of 5 910 information gatherers. The information gatherers — three in each of the country’s 1 970 wards — are working under the close supervision of their CIO handlers.
The scientific-like CIO strategy enables Zanu PF to control the electoral process in terms of structures, numbers of registered voters and the actual voting process, as well as polling stations. It also promotes systematic voter intimidation and victimisation, especially at ward level.
An operational Faz document titled Faz Campaign Scope seen by The NewsHawks, says the organisation has penetrated all provinces up to household level through several tactics, leaving voters vulnerable to abuse during the 23 August elections.
“Once the party has access to the voters’ roll, preferably broken down to constituencies and even to polling stations, volunteers must keep in touch with registered voters through texting and phoning. This must be done almost intrusively, as a way of maintaining intimacy. Volunteers should be in the habit of checking on the health and well-being of voters as a way of showing the party’s and candidate’s concern. This can also be used for reminding voters of important election-related events and issues, while also keeping them up to date on key developments,” the document reads.
“Faz volunteers are required to intrusively access party cell registers, from party cell chairmen, and check and verify their accuracy and integrity. To this end, Faz then discretely conducts a head count of cell members, checking if they are registered to vote. If any party members or holders of positions of leadership are found not to have national documents or registered to vote, Faz, therefore, will handhold and assist all those to rectify the discrepancy under supervision.
“Volunteers must be available to furnish voters with the party’s and candidate’s campaign literature in their homes and workspaces. This will be done door-to-door or at community gatherings. Literature will also be distributed at markets, bus termini or shops, thus helping to expand the campaign to voters outside the volunteer’s immediate area of responsibility.”
Volunteers were also tasked with administering voter education, assisting undocumented people or aliens to acquire national registration documents and to register to vote.
“These interventions, which are already taking place in all constituencies nationwide, should result in a significant surge in registered voters who attribute that achievement to President ED (Mnangagwa) and Zanu PF.
Volunteers must maintain contact with people they would have assisted to register to vote or to acquire national documents so that they are not won over to the opposition’s poisonous narratives,” the document reads.
Critical information being collected by the agents and informers includes names, addresses, identity numbers and voter registration details at polling station level.
Faz is also counting people at household level before recording the information on their tablets and smartphones. The information which will be computed, condensed into data and processed will be crucial in influencing and manipulating the electoral process in favour of Zanu PF through a combination of tactics, including persuasion and intimidation, in some cases.
It is also being used to predict potential outcomes, using real figures, so that Zanu PF knows which constituencies and wards to put campaign resources in or activate its coercive machinery.
The NewsHawks has previously gathered and reported that Faz has received US$10 million and 200 cars to run its affairs in preparation for elections. Additional resources have been promised to capacitate the secret structure.
Faz’s mandate, working together with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and its chair Justice Priscilla Chigumba, is to coordinate logistics and decisive forces to retain Mnangagwa in power.
The NewsHawks investigation also established that Faz has structures at national, provincial, district, constituency and ward levels – where minute details are collected for use in the electoral process.
The organisation is visible countrywide and has been sending shivers down the spines of many, especially opposition supporters, particularly in rural areas.
With its members spread across provinces, Faz rose to prominence last year by playing a pivotal role in making Zanu PF cell registers before running Zanu PF primary elections this year.
The organisation also mobilised people during voter registration and they caused panic due to their presence at Zimbabwe Electoral Zec centres during the recently held voters’ roll inspection exercise.
How Faz operates
Information gathered through interviews and reading an operational document shows provincial coordinators report to Tapfumaneyi.
The provincial coordinators have teams in each district countrywide, led by district intelligence officers.
The CIO structure include directors and branches they run at the top at its Chaminuka Building headquarters and its sub-offices in Harare; provincial intelligence officers and district intelligence officers.
There also several other departments involved. So district intelligence officers and coordinators oversee operations in constituencies.
At ward level, Faz has recruited and trained three Zanu PF-aligned members to collect information under the supervision of CIO operatives.
A Faz operational document calls the three civilians in each ward “volunteers”. Zimbabwe has 1 970 wards, meaning Faz has recruited 5 910 volunteers who are part of its machinery to run the elections. In Masvingo province, which has 240 wards, there are 720 Faz volunteers in total.
The volunteers report to CIO operatives who manage intelligence at constituency level and their information is transmitted through applications on their phones provided by Faz.
They also collect GPS coordinates for each household and monitor political activities of people in their respective areas.
The approach and systematic use of data for political and electoral purposes amounts to an illegal mass surveillance and data collection technique, an intricate “watch over” of people, in this specific case in Masvingo using technology and other means.
CIO operatives and Faz volunteers attend most Zanu PF events and their presence is usually acknowledged by ruling party officials.
Faz has a specific mandate to undermine the opposition.
“The message must seek to thoroughly discredit the opposition and its candidate, rendering them unelectable. This includes anything that makes their candidate stink to the heavens, and speaking against their party’s anarchic, subversive, treasonous, undemocratic and terrorist pedigree and related actions,” the document reads.
The document also carries the code of conduct for all Faz members which urges members to be ambassadors of Zanu PF who should only represent the interests of the party.
“We do not and shall not claim to have any other identity than that we are members of Faz Trust, a private organisation, which is an affiliate of Zanu PF. We are as individuals, proudly members of Zanu PF and are unapologetic about this reality,” reads part of the code of conduct.
Faz members say they can easily identify non-Zanu PF members because they have access to Zanu PF cell registers.
“The assumption is that one is either an opposition supporter or an undecided voter, if they are registered to vote but do not appear in Zanu PF structures. So, there is a deliberate effort to recruit from this pool and that’s where persuasion and propaganda come in,” said a Faz member.
“Of course, some are known opposition activists or sympathisers. Intimidation is then deployed on such people. In rural areas, the message has been clear to such people that they are viewed with suspicion because they are not in party structures.”