Mugabe promotes notorious general

An army general implicated in rhino poaching, partisan food distribution, election rigging and even the murder of an army captain, was last week unilaterally promoted by Robert Mugabe.

Three Infantry Brigade Commander, Brigadier-General Douglas Nyikayaramba, stunned the country last year when he called for Mugabe to be declared life president. He also described Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai as a “major national security threat rather than a political one”.

This fanatical bootlicking has seen Nyikayaramba being promoted to Major-General. He will move from his base in the Manicaland province to the Zimbabwe Defence Forces Headquarters in Harare, where he will be Chief of Staff .

Also promoted by Mugabe was Air Commodore Michael Moyo, who assumed the rank of Air Vice-Marshal. Moyo will be commandant of the National Defence College in Harare. But it is the appointment of Nyikayaramba that has an ominous bearing on the next election in Zimbabwe.

Nyikayaramba played a key role in rigging the 2002 presidential elections for Mugabe. At the time he was the Chief Executive Officer of the then Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC). His bias was confirmed further last year when he openly admitted he was ZANU PF and would not allow Tsvangirai to win.

In June 2008 Nyikayaramba was one of the over 200 senior army officers deployed around the country to co-ordinate the brutal ‘Operation Mavhotera Papi’ (where did you vote?) Over 500 opposition supporters were killed and tens of thousands were tortured, as punishment for voting for Tsvangirai who had won the March 2008 presidential election.

Nyikayaramba was also the head of the controversial Operation Maguta in which members of the army where deployed in every district of the country, purportedly to give technical assistance to farmers. The scheme was dismissed as nothing more than an attempt to justify the army presence in rural areas when in fact they were there to intimidate the rural electorate into voting for ZANU PF.

Political analyst Pedzisai Ruhanya told SW Radio Africa that Nyikayaramba’s promotion should be used as an “early warning system for the democratic actors in Zimbabwe.” He said Nyikayaramba’s role in the last three elections (2002, 2005 and 2008) “has seen him at the centre of the militarization of our politics, electoral institutions and the violent and partisan behaviour of the military.”

Ruhanya said Nyikayaramba has been strategically placed by Mugabe in his new position so that he can “run elections using the army.” He added that this had happened before, in 2002, when Nyikayaramba pretended to have resigned from the army so he could be CEO of the Electoral Supervisory Commission and rig elections for Mugabe.

“Where else have you seen a serving soldier run elections? In 2002 soldiers voted well ahead of time. They were also responsible for collecting ballot boxes across the country and in some instances, like Gokwe, using helicopters,” Ruhanya said. He added that nothing has changed and the new Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) still has workers who were recruited by Nyikayaramba.

Ruhanya was particularly scathing of the two MDC’s in the coalition government, arguing that their half-hearted reaction to Nyikayaramba’s promotion showed they were ‘naïve.’

“These people are sleeping at the expense of our people who have taken risks, who have defeated this regime, but at the level of political method and leadership, they are not doing enough to make the wishes of the people carry the day,” he said.

Nyikayaramba made sure the election body was stuffed with soldiers, state security agents and ZANU PF militia and “these are the people who are rigging elections. These are the people who were cooking figures in 2008. The whole ZEC is a product of Nyikayaramba and Mugabe is appointing in broad daylight the same people who robbed the MDC of victory” Ruhanya said.

Nyikayaramba is nicknamed ‘think tank’ or ‘Mr Fix It’ by many in ZANU PF. It is believed his deployment as Chief of Staff at the army HQ will enable him to be responsible for deploying soldiers in the community and getting them to ‘campaign’ for Mugabe using all means necessary, including violence.

SW Radio Africa also has information that Nyikayaramba was allegedly involved in the 1989 murder of 35 year old army captain Edwin Bhundani Nleya. Captain Nleya's body was found on a hillside in Hwange, two months after he disappeared in suspicious circumstances from 1:2 Infantry Battalion in Hwange.

Several reports claimed Captain Nleya was killed because of what he knew about the involvement of the army in poaching and smuggling activities in Mozambique. Nleya uncovered evidence of this while on military duty there in 1988.

Its alleged Nleya even refused to carry out one of the poaching missions and threatened to expose his commanders, who at the time included General Constantine Chiwenga who was commander of 1 Brigade and Nyikayaramba, who was then a lieutenant colonel commanding 1:2 Infantry battalion.

Poaching by the army at the time was so rife that there are reports that dozens of people who tried to expose it were also killed. Army lieutenant Shepard Chisango died in custody in 1991, after also threatening to expose ‘smuggling’ activities in Mozambique. He was arrested after trying to obstruct an army lorry which was carrying what were believed to be smuggled goods from Mozambique.

An Amnesty International report said: “In September 1987, two National Park officials, Martin Sibanda and Martin Marimo, who were investigating the illegal movement of ivory, were shot dead in an ambush. At least five people, all of whom were involved in investigating poaching or smuggling, were killed in car accidents between 1988 and 1990.” – SW Radio

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