Chiwenga, Mugabe face-off

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has drawn battle lines in the sand with his security chiefs after he declared yesterday that he would not succumb to Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) Commander General Constantino Chiwenga’s threats to “step in” and restore order in the ruling Zanu PF party.

This was after Chiwenga in an angry rant on Monday warned Mugabe that the military would not hesitate to “step-in” and restore order if the ongoing internal purges targeted at former Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s allies were not stopped.

The latest stand-off has left the country on the edge and with potential to degenerate into civil unrest.

The security sector, which also encompasses war veterans, is believed to be behind Mnangagwa’s bid to succeed Zanu PF’s 93-year-old leader.

Chiwenga also ordered Mugabe to stop the carnage in the ruling party and allow all party members to attend and participate at next month’s extraordinary congress on an equal footing, saying the military would not stand aside as the revolutionary party was hijacked by Johnny-come-latelies.

At his Press briefing held at the army headquarters in Harare, Chiwenga was flanked by nearly 100 top military officers including base commanders drawn from all parts of the country.

But, in a statement last night, Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo described Chiwenga’s remarks as “an outrageous vitiation of professional soldiership” in view of “his wartime record as a high-ranking freedom fighter entrusted with command responsibilities in a free and democratic Zimbabwe”.

“Clearly, calculated to disturb national peace and stability, the said statement by General Chiwenga which was not signed, and which did not represent the rest of the command element, suggests treasonable conduct on his part as this was meant to incite insurrection and violent challenge to the constitutional order. Indeed, this is what happens when the gun seeks to overreach by dictating to politics and norms of constitutionality,” he said.

Khaya Moyo added: “As the party running the democratically-elected government of Zimbabwe, Zanu PF will never succumb to any threats, least of all those deriving from conduct that is inconsistent with the tenets of democracy and constitutionalism. Not too far back, the President and First Secretary of Zanu PF Cde RG Mugabe, who is also commander-in-chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, reminded members of the uniformed forces of their subordinate place and role vis-a-vis the political authority in the land.

“Such conduct stands unreservedly condemned not only in the party, but also in our Southern African region and the entire African continent where subversion of constitutional authority is frowned upon and regarded as an absolute anathema,” the party and government spokesperson said.

Khaya Moyo’s statement came after Zanu PF youth leader Kudzanayi Chipanga had made similar scathing attacks on Chiwenga, labelling him a “rebel” and “criminal” who should be held accountable for the country’s missing diamond revenue.

“These people should be warned that we, the youth, are watching in our millions and those who wish to ride on the back of the tiger will end up inside,” he warned.

“We are, therefore, taking a stand against those who are bent on sowing division among our people and also those taking advantage of the privilege of their appointment by our President to extort guarantees and immunity for fugitives, border jumpers from the same appointing authority.”

Chipanga said he was shocked and disappointed by Chiwenga’s “futile efforts” to play the bidding for Mnangagwa who was kicked out of both government and Zanu PF last week on allegations of plotting to dethrone the frail Zanu PF leader.

“We notice that Comrade Chiwenga is prescribing the way the party should handle its affairs and electoral processes. With all due respect, this is overstepping his boundaries and mandate . . . Cde Chiwenga seems to be operating under a misapprehension that the appointment of Cde Dambudzo Mnangagwa as deputy President was an anointing of him as successor to the President,” he said.
He said Chiwenga’s remarks should be dismissed with the contempt they deserved as they were not representative of the thinking of all members of the country’s security sector.

But Zanu PF youths in Bulawayo yesterday distanced themselves from Chipanga’s rants, accusing their leader of dragging them into his personal fights with military bosses.

“We have never been given a forum to deliberate on this and who are the youths he was representing?” Zanu PF youth member and secretary for security in the Children of the War Veterans’ Association, Blessing Makamu, said.

“We cannot be roped in to fight against our fathers. He (Chipanga) was just representing his family and those who went to China at President Mugabe’s volition. He is saying the youths want to fight the leader of the army, that is not our suggestion, it’s his own thing,” Makamu added.

Zanu PF Bulawayo city district youth league commissar Shorayi Mashungu said they were not consulted and did not agree with Chipanga’s utterances.

Another youth member, Irvine Ncube, said Chipanga’s statement was “reckless” and a ploy to set up the youths against the army.

Yet Chipanga declared that the youths were prepared to die in defence of their soon-to-be 94-year-old Zanu PF leader.

“We, as the Zanu PF youth league, are a lion which has awakened and found its voice. Therefore, we will not sit idly and fold our hands while cheap potshots and threats are made against the legitimate and popularly-elected leader of the revolutionary party Zanu PF and Zimbabwe,” Chipanga said.

“This freedom is, therefore, sacrosanct and we will not fold our hands to allow a creature of the Constitution subvert the very Constitution which establishes it. Section 211(3) of the Constitution is very categorical in making the armed forces subordinate to civilian authority, patriotic, professional and non-partisan.”

Chipanga said Chiwenga should not be allowed to sow seeds of division among the citizens and take advantage of the privilege of his position to “extort guarantees and immunity for fugitives and border jumpers” — an apparent jibe directed at Mnangagwa, who is in self-imposed exile in South Africa.

“All those in security sector fatigues who wish to engage in politics are free to throw their hats in the ring and not hide behind the barrel of the gun. We wish to remind them that conniving and conspiring to overthrow a constitutionally elected government is a crime in this country and anywhere in the world.

“The African Union and Sadc position on this issue is very clear and we as the youth will stand guard in defence of the revolution like the people of Turkey last year who repelled rogue security forces from interfering with an elected government,” he said.

Chipanga also accused Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association chairman Christopher Mutsvangwa of trying to push a “successionist” agenda for exiled Mnangagwa.

He also accused Chiwenga of playing a part in the missing $15 billion diamond revenue, adding concern had been raised from several sectors, including the generality of the population, on the missing funds.

“As Commander of the Defence Forces, Chiwenga, we await a full report on the whereabouts of the missing $15 billion as the army never accounted for the revenue extraction. This money would have gone a long way in alleviating the obtaining hardships the soldiers are facing and improve their welfare and morale.

“Comrade Chiwenga cannot have his cake and eat it too. He also cannot benefit from his own mischief and misdeeds in that together with the former Minister of Defence, now fugitive Comrade Dambudzo Mnangagwa, they dismally failed in the stewardship of revenue streams that flowed from diamond concessions allocated to the defence forces whose sole purpose was cushioning the defence forces from economic hardships,” Chipanga said, adding a day to account for the people involved would soon come.

Chipanga also said it was worrying that Chiwenga was silent when others, including former Vice-President Joice Mujuru, were fired from the ruling party.

He said it was hypocritical for those who now feel betrayed by the one centre of power concept yet when it was applied on others they were celebrating.

“The army needs to take a leaf from their counterparts in the police, prisons and correctional services and Central Intelligence Organisation who were not part of yesterday’s (Monday) circus,” Chipanga said.

Repeated efforts to contact ZDF spokesperson Colonel Overson Mugwisi were futile as he was not reachable yesterday.