Despite President Robert Mugabe urging military officers to stay out of internal ruling party politics the message has fallen on deaf ears after the Commander of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces, General Constantino Guvheya Dominic Nyikadzino Chiwenga defied that directive.In an interview with the Sunday Mail the General said ““We are apolitical to the extent that we leave you to do what you like, but the moment you threaten the sovereignty of the country, then you threaten that very Constitution.“Please don’t expect us to sit and watch. We are there to protect the people and that’s what we are saying and will do”
He also appeared to attack Mandi Chimene and Professor Jonathan Moyo who are said to belong to the G40 faction that President Mugabe appears to be backing. The G40 faction is believed to be pushing for President Robert Mugabe’s wife to take over the Presidency at the expense of current Vice president Emmerson Mnanagagwa who is being backed by war veterans. War veterans say Mnangagwa is the most senior ZANU PF member after Robert Mugabe and should naturally take over when Mugabe retires.
The military is determined to ensure that their own candidate who will safeguard their interests succeeds Mugabe.G40 is seen as a threat to the military’s continued influence in civilian politics via the ruling ZANU PF party. These contradictions have resulted in party members publicly attacking each other in the last few months.
War veterans in a communiqué claimed that Mugabe is the brains behind G40 and the one fomenting disunity in the party. They claimed that it has always been Mugabe’s strategy to create factions in the party in order to preserve his position at the helm of the party. The war veterans are at loggerheads with Mugabe over his reluctance to name a successor they want and his heavy handed approach to dealing with those discussing succession. At the war veterans meeting one of the leaders Francis Nhando is said to have said that no creditor would lend money to a 92 year old leader.
The security chiefs have promised to investigate and smoke out the authors of the damning communiqué but not much may come from these investigations considering that the war veterans may enjoy the support of the military establishment.
The relationship between Mugabe ,G40 his wife and the military has been frosty with Mugabe insisting that soldiers must be disciplined and stay out of politics while the soldiers have shot back saying they are stockbrokers of ZANU PF. Mugabe’s wife has gone as far as accusing the military of trying to kill her youngest son.
There is a discord in the party concerning the leadership of the party. Mugabe argues that he was given the mandate to rule in 2013 by the people of Zimbabwe which was reaffirmed by the ruling ZANU PF party congress in 2014 where he was declared the sole centre of power in the party with the powers to appoint his deputies.
However an ailing economy worsened by investor reluctance to invest in Zimbabwe due to leadership uncertainty caused by Mugabe’s advanced age has resulted in other party cadres insisting on a clear succession plan being spelled out. It is believed that the Chinese government insisted on leadership renewal within the ruling party before they can invest in the country. Western powers have been unequivocal on the need for leadership change and reform in the ruling party before they can invest in the country.
Leadership renewal has become imperative in the ruling party if the party is to have long term survival. However President Mugabe views any discussion of leadership beyond his own as rebellion and a subversion of his authority. This has provoked mass dismissal from the ruling party of people perceived to be opposed to his rule.
Dismissing Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his allies has not been a walk a park, at least not as easy as dismissing former Vice president Joyce Mujuru. Mugabe’s proxies who control the disciplinary apparatus in the party have met resistance. These include leaders of war veterans association who have been expelled from the party.
Efforts to reconstitute the defiant leadership of the war veterans have so far failed with Mugabe’s preferred candidates for the association’s leadership being interdicted by the high court from interfering with the association’s operations. The current war veterans’ leadership is said to enjoy the support of the military’s top brass after they held some of their meetings at military barracks.
The latest statements by General Chiwenga confirm what everyone has always said that the military dabbles in civilian politics. It suggests that Mugabe has lost control of the military unit that has kept him in power in the past 18 years. By being openly defied by his generals, Mugabe may be losing his grip on the coercive state apparatus.
President Mugabe still has powers to dismiss military commanders considering that most of them are operating on short term contracts after their contracts finished years ago. It has become clear that Mugabe is rowing in different directions with his lieutenants and it remains to be seen what action he will take to reassert his control on both the party and the state.