Mugabe suspicious of generals

President Robert Mugabe does not trust any of his generals to play an active role in managing his succession due to their own affiliations in the various factions vying for power.

Constantine Chiwenga
Constantine Chiwenga

As reports are emerging that the army is pushing to decide who should succeed Mugabe, sources close to the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) have revealed that he has lost trust in the generals whose support has kept him in power for so long. Unconfirmed reports last week claimed that the army commander, Constantine Chiwenga, was pushing to have a person who participated at the 1979 Lancaster House negotiations to take over from Mugabe.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, the current Justice Minister and Zanu (PF) secretary for administration leads a camp that is involved in a fierce battle to replace Mugabe despite him likely to stand again for president at the next general elections in 2018.

Besides Mugabe, he is the only remaining member who travelled to England for the December 1979 Lancaster House talks – even though he did not participate in the negotiations to establish a constitution that led to majority rule in the then Rhodesia.

He has been battling for leadership supremacy against Joice Mujuru, Mugabe’s current deputy.

“There is no way in which His Excellency (Mugabe) can allow Chiwenga or any other general to be involved in his succession. In fact, he no longer trusts any of them as they are linked to the factions that he is now opposed to,” said the source.

The head of the CIO, Happyton Bonyongwe, has been linked to the camp led by Mujuru, while Chiwenga is reported to favour Mnangagwa. There have been speculations that at one time Chiwenga was even interested in Mugabe’s post himself.

Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri has not been attached to any particular faction, but sources said he did not get along well with Mujuru.

Ninety-year-old Mugabe recently expressed his displeasure with both Mnangagwa and Mujuru, publicly accusing them of causing divisions within the party. He said neither of them were guaranteed to succeed him.

“The generals know that Mugabe does not like them any more and he is only keeping them for strategic reasons. It is possible that he can announce new heads for the army, CIO and police in the next six months, depending on what happens at Congress,” added the well-placed source.

Zanu (PF) will hold an elective congress in December where new leaders will be chosen.

Party spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo, last week said the positions of vice president and national chair would be open to interested candidates and none would receive preferential treatment. He said the generals had no place in choosing Mugabe’s successor.

“Where do the generals come in? Our model is that politics leads the gun, not the other way round. The issue of succession is a Zanu (PF) matter and generals are not expected to play a part,” Gumbo told The Zimbabwean.

This newspaper reported recently that the generals were causing mayhem by fanning land invasions as a way of maintaining their grip on power. They became very powerful between 2000 and 2009 when Zimbabwe was gripped by acute social, economic and political instability that saw Mugabe depending on them to maintain his threatened power base. Mugabe is reportedly afraid that the army can no longer be relied upon to guarantee his family’s safety and business interests, because that they are involved in succession matters and will promote their preferred candidates’ turfs.

As a result, he is said to be increasingly supporting his wife, Grace, as a cushion against possible political shocks. She was recently endorsed as the candidate to lead the powerful Women’s League, leapfrogging senior members in the organ.

“The current generals have served for a long time and the longer the stay, the greater the threat they could pose to Mugabe. They have played their part when they were needed most. That seems to be the president’s thinking,” added another highly placed source.

Once a decision is made to replace them, Chihuri, Chiwenga and Bonyongwe might be given diplomatic assignments as a way of physically removing them from Zimbabwe and placating them. The media-shy Mnangagwa was unreachable for a comment and efforts to talk to the army were fruitless as the public relations number went unanswered.

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