Army crackdown illegal: experts

The two army generals accused of leaking Zimbabwe’s military secrets to the Americans have been placed under 24-hour surveillance, according to well-placed sources.


Defence Ministry sources confirmed that Major-General Fidelis Satuku and Brigadier-General Herbert Chingono were now ‘marked men’. This is after Defence Forces Commander, General Constantine Chiwenga, ordered an investigation into their top secret meetings with US government and military officials.

Leaked diplomatic notes published by whistle-blower site Wikileaks show that the two top commanders told US officials that most professional soldiers had no faith in Chiwenga.

Under-qualified leader

They said Chiwenga was under-qualified to lead the army, lacked practical experience and was only keen on advancing Zanu (PF) politics. They also revealed that Chiwenga had not completed a single top-level military course. Chingono and Satuku were trained in the USA and Britain.

The generals face possible treason charges for espionage and may be sentenced to death if an envisaged court martial finds them guilty. The generals have also had their offices clandestinely searched, while their close aides, family members and associates have been questioned unofficially, said the sources.

The CIO, army intelligence and the police are now involved, although no formal board of enquiry has been set up as required by the Defence Act. Analysts say in the absence of a formal enquiry, the actions against the generals amount to victimisation and harassment.

Army spokesman Overson Mugwizi confirmed that the two generals were being probed, but would not say by who. It was also not clear what terms of reference the investigators had. Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa could not be contacted as his mobile phone went unanswered.

Unprecedented probe

Defence experts and military analysts told The Zimbabwean that a probe leading to a court martial would be unprecedented in Zimbabwean military history. The closest the Defence Forces got to such a stage was when Air Force commander Perence Shiri was placed under house arrest in the 1980s and was closely monitored by the intelligence services.

“It would be unprecedented to have such officials under court martial,” said a military analyst who asked not to be named.

The analyst said if such a probe was really going on, it was a violation of the rights of the officers.

“If such an investigation is going on then there is something wrong. You don’t just investigate such senior commanders without following proper procedures. These are very serious charges. Treason carries the death penalty if one is convicted.”

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