ity forces, resulting in the assassination of three generals.
All three were declared national heroes in one of the most curious developments in the country’s history.
Senior army officers said the planned coup was code named Operation 1940 and was supposed to have been led by Brigadier General Armstrong Gunda, commander of One Brigade based in Bulawayo.
Gunda was also the commander of army units based in Hwange and Plumtree.
1940 was the time at which soldiers were supposed to storm President Mugabe’s palatial residence in Borrowdale Brooke. The coup was supposed to be staged on June 15.
On the 15th of every month 95 percent of soldiers leave their barracks in army buses to visit their families across the country, leaving only two units on standby, according to senior army officers.
Mugabe was supposed to have been toppled while the majority of soldiers were away from their units and unarmed.
Gunda was given the assignment, according to senior army officers, because for more than five years, he was the commander of the Presidential Guard.
The attempted coup was sponsored by a coterie of people connected to former army commander, Retired General Solomon Mujuru.
“Gunda had so much intimate knowledge about Mugabe’s security arrangements, his movements, his hideouts and other small details – it made him a natural leader of the operation,” said a senior army officer.
Lifa, Mleya murdered
Another general, Taurai Lifa, a former aide de camp to Mugabe with vast knowledge of his personal security, was given a lethal injection while detained at a Harare private hospital recovering from a minor ailment. Under the coup project, General Lifa served as a consultant. His remains were interred at the National Heroes Acre.
The third general to be assassinated was Fakazi Mleya, who until recently headed the Signals Corps responsible for the army’s national communications systems.
He was also given a lethal injection and sent to Heroes Acre.
Another senior army officer told The Zimbabwean that: “Mleya was pivotal in the sense that he was aware of how the national military communications system could be scrambled before, during and after the coup in terms of sending communications to army units around the country.”
It was at Mleya’s funeral that Mugabe spoke about attempts to topple him through the military, suggesting that the British government had sponsored an attempted coup against him. He reminded mourners about his boyhood dog which had run away from a buck when he and his friends had gone hunting.
“I don’t know what happened to that dog but I found it dead after some days. Even in the liberation struggle it was known that politics leads the gun and not the other way round.”
At Gunda’s burial, Mugabe gave another veiled but chilling warning to those who might harbour ambitions of toppling him.
Using a football metaphor, the Zimbabwean dictator said: “Some people want to employ rough tactics. What they don’t know is that we can employ similar tactics and score.”
Three other senior officers who were reportedly part of the coup have been spared, for now as soldiers and Zimbabweans are now talking openly about the assassinations of the generals.
On borrowed time
Those on borrowed time include Air Vice Marshal Elson Moyo, Army spokesman, Colonel Ben Ncube and Army Quarter Master, Major General Angelbert Rugeje.
Said another senior army officer: “Air Vice Marshal Moyo was going to be in charge of the air force element and was supposed to commandeer elements from the air force whose first major task would have been to distribute fliers across the country to inform the population about the new order. The toppling of Mugabe was supposed to be immediately followed by the take over of all Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings establishments and that is where Ben Ncube with his public relations and journalism background would have come in handy to notify listeners and viewers about the new developments. Rugeje was supposed to convince other senior officers not to resist the new order.”
A visit to ZBH Pockets Hill established that security has been doubled while Moyo, Ncube and Rugeje are now being escorted and are under 24 hour surveillance with no public roles.
The Zimbabwean visited the scene in Marondera where Gunda’s car was supposed to have been hit by a train the following day and found no evidence that there had been a car accident.
Locals said they were surprised to learn that there had been an accident in the area as they had not witnessed or heard about the crash.
Unlike in the past when such ‘accidents’ happen, the state media did not film or photograph the car in which Brigadier General Gunda was supposed to have died.
Gunda died under torture
An officer based in Harare told The Zimbabwean in an interview: “In the army, the information that we have is that Brig General Gunda died while being tortured at Chikurubi. His car, which had a slight dent on the passenger side was actually driven into KGV1. When some soldiers questioned why a car that had been hit by a train was still being driven around and with a small dent, it was immediately taken to the workshop.”
The senior officer said soldiers who visited the workshops the following day had another big surprise waiting for them.
The cream truck had been mangled and destroyed with all the windows shattered to make it look like it had been hit by a train.
Officers said although the official word was that he had been struck by a train while going to pick up his son at a school in Marondera, protocol was that he should have been in his official Prado.
Children of senior army officers are usually picked from their schools by army drivers.
Two weeks after his burial, Gunda’s widow, a war veteran placed a memorial advertisement describing her husband’s death as mysterious.
Members of the Mbare born Gunda family told The Zimbabwean that they had no doubt that he had been assassinated.
“To start with how do you explain that his corpse did not have a single scratch which should be the case with anybody who would have been hit by a train. Our brother survived three dangerous wars, the liberation struggle, the Mozambican and the DRC campaigns, he was a guerilla and a soldier. We don’t buy the tale that he drove through a railway line without taking due caution,” said one of his cousins.
They said he had revealed that he was persistently being pestered to stand for Zanu (PF) in Mbare during next year’s joint parliamentary and presidential elections but had tuned them down presumably because by then he was already working on bigger things.
The same had happened to Mleya who had been approached by Beitbridge Member of Parliament, Kembo Mohadi, to run as an MP next year as the constituency was going to be split into three.
Again he turned them down saying he wanted to retire from active service.