Inside the ZNA – Entrenching political partisanship

At the end of this month, the term of office for the commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, General Constantine Chiwenga, will come to an end.

Dewa Mavhinga
Dewa Mavhinga

There is raging debate already that contracts for Chiwenga and the police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri should not be renewed. The two generals, widely viewed as highly partisan, should be replaced by professional, independent and non-partisan leaders from within the ranks of the military and the police force.

Information below sent to the Zimbabwe Briefing from a source within the military provides a glimpse into the operations of the military and shows why it will be a significant challenge to uproot partisanship within the higher ranks.

The leadership of the ZNA is widely viewed as very political, and is aligned to Zanu (PF) as it is drawn largely from the Zimbabwe African Nationalist Liberation Army, Zanu (PF)’s military wing before independence. ZANLA and the ZAPU-aligned ZIPRA were united together in 1980 with the Rhodesian Front military force under the leadership of ZANLA’s General Solomon Mujuru (the late). From the beginning the military leadership worked closely with the political party, and that mistake of extreme partisanship at the top has persisted to this day.

After a short spell in leadership, Mujuru turned to focus on his vast business empire and handed over to General Vitalis Zvinavashe (the late) who was even more partisan and caused untold suffering to the serving members.

After him came General Constantine Chiwenga, the current commander, a ZANLA veteran of the liberation struggle, and a businessman who was recently ‘came out’ as the best student in a University of Zimbabwe masters degree programme in International Relations – a move widely interpreted to signify preparation for a career in politics. Chiwenga, together with Colonel Mzilikazi, former director of military intelligence and now Deputy Com- mander of 5th Brigade, are said to have moved across the country from camp to camp conducting ‘military civic education,’ a programme whose actual purpose appears to be to intimidate soldiers into supporting Zanu (PF).

In order to further entrench support for Zanu (PF) within the military, the ZNA has in recent years adopted a practice of recruiting sons and daughters of former and serving members whose loyalty to Zanu (PF) cannot be questioned. The recruiting officers have been given strict instructions not to recruit anyone whose loyalty is questionable and whose family history cannot be traced back to Zanu (PF).

This has resulted in many, unqualified new recruits coming from rural areas because that is where the Army leadership thinks Zanu (PF) enjoys a lot of support. The Air Force of Zimbabwe, the Police and the Zimbabwe Prison Services have also given first preference to those who would have undergone the National Youth Service training.

Proper promotion procedure has been abandoned in recent years in favour of promoting soldiers who are related to senior ranking army officers. Corruption has taken its toll. Promotion is now largely based on who are you and who are you related to and more importantly on what contribution you have played to ensure that Zanu (PF) stays in power.

President Robert Mugabe, who is also the Commander-In-Chief of the defence forces, is personally responsible for the promotion of all commissioned officers. It appears promotion at these levels is also no longer on merit, but on the basis of who can serve Mugabe and his party most diligently and blindly.

For more than 20 years after independence, war veterans were sidelined on account of poor education that hindered promotion to senior ranks. After facing its first formidable challenge from the MDC in the 2000 elections, Zanu (PF) suddenly began to promote former ZANLA combatants. This did not apply to ZIPRA veterans. They were sidelined as sell-outs and “those who cannot be trusted to defend Zanu (PF).” To date Zanu (PF) loyalists constitute the largest number of decision makers and decision implementers within the army.

That is why it will be difficult for the army to rebel against Mugabe and his party. That is also why it will be easy for the army to carry out a coup d’etat in the event that any party other than Zanu (PF) wins elections.

So, with Zanu (PF) pushing for early elections which are clearly unlikely, it continues to resist any reforms to realign the political leadership of the military to act in a manner consistent with the dictates of a multi-party democracy system.

A sustained push for the re-alignment of the security sector, which includes the injection of fresh blood at the top, is one key guarantee for a non-violent, free and fair election. – Dewa Mavhinga, Regional Coordinator, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition

Post published in: Politics

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