Army worried by faction fighting

The Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) is worried that the escalating faction fighting within Zanu (PF) could destabilise the party and ignite internal strife. Senior officers plan to approach President Robert Mugabe with a neutral candidate if things get out of hand, a senior military source has said.

Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) commander Constantine Chiwenga
Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) commander Constantine Chiwenga

Two major camps led by Vice President Joice Mujuru and Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa are jostling to succeed Mugabe, 90, as he moves into the twilight of his career.

The Mnangagwa faction is reportedly gunning to take over from Mugabe by February next year while the Mujuru camp is considered to enjoy more popular support but is increasingly isolated by the First Family.

“We are watching with keen eyes. It depends on how the candidates who wish to grab posts in the presidium at congress conduct themselves. Some may lose and want to either break away or cause mayhem. That is when we will move in because we don’t want to leave anything to chance,” said the senior officer.

He admitted that the army was itself divided along factional lines, adding that the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) commander Constantine Chiwenga had a soft spot for Mnangagwa. “Word is spreading around, however, that he can shift to Sydney Sekeramayi if Mnangagwa proves to be a problem,” he added.

Sekeramayi, an astute tactician who heads the defence ministry, has largely kept out of the succession battle, but is considered a dark horse. Having spent most of his post-independence political career in security portfolios, observers say he could spring a surprise and emerge as the ultimate Mugabe successor.

Chiwenga recently urged those fighting to succeed Mugabe to stop claiming support from the army as it was not involved in party politics. “(Our role) is to defend Zimbabwe, its people, its wealth, the independence and the national interest,” he said.

The army has, however, been accused of direct involvement in supporting Zanu (PF) during elections. All the top officers are former liberation fighters who have benefited richly from the patronage system.

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