Military plot to keep ailing Mugabe in power

HARARE – More than 80 000 youth militia, war veterans and soldiers will be deployed across the country in an army-led drive to ensure victory for President Robert Mugabe in the next elections that, according to investigations by ZimOnline, look set to be the bloodiest ever witnessed in Zimbabwe.\r\n

A three-month investigation by ZimOnline that included interviews and discussions with Cabinet ministers, senior military officers and ZANU PF functionaries, revealed a desperate determination by Zimbabwe’s top generals to thwart Tsvangirai, with some even openly bragging that they would topple the Prime Minister should he somehow triumph against the planned violence to emerge the winner of the polls whose date is yet to be named.

Zimbabwe’s hardliner generals have long been regarded as wielding a de facto veto over the country’s troubled transformation process and as likely to block transfer of power to the winners of elections that Mugabe insist should take place this year should the victors not be the veteran President and his ZANU PF party.

According to our investigation the Joint Military Operations Command (JOC) that brings together the commanders of the army, air force, police, secret and prison services plan to intervene at an earlier stage in the process, well before foreign or even local observers are on the ground.

The strategy is to unleash enough violence and terror  — worse than seen in the bloody 2008 presidential run-off poll in which at least 200 of Tsvangirai’s supporters died and tens of thousands of others were made homeless — to make sure a thoroughly cowed electorate will on voting day back Mugabe in enough numbers to save the veteran President from having to face another second round vote or do a Gbabgo.

Laurent Gbabgo, the Ivorian leader has openly refused to hand over power to his victorious opponent after being defeated in elections.

Zimbabwe’s generals, who were behind the 2008 violence that forced Tsvangirai to withdraw from a second round vote he had been tipped to win after beating Mugabe in the first round ballot, fear that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is unlikely to accept another blood-soaked second round election victory for Mugabe or allow him to refuse – Gbabgo style — to hand over power to a victorious Tsvangirai.

The plan

With Tsvangirai and the MDC, civil society and even SADC seemingly distracted by the problems surrounding implementation of the power-sharing deal that led to the formation of the Harare unity government, the JOC has worked quietly to reactivate the structures that waged violence in previous polls – almost unnoticed, apart from the occasional report by human rights groups or the media of resurgent violence in some parts of the country.

According to information made available to ZimOnline, the JOC plans to deploy senior commanders from either the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) or the Central Intelligence Organisation in each of Zimbabwe’s 59 districts to coordinate the fight to retain Mugabe in power.

The ZDF comprises the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) and Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ) while the CIO is the government’s secret service agency that has a reputation for ruthlessly dealing with Mugabe’s political opponents.

Air Vice Marshal Henry Muchena, a fierce Mugabe loyalist who has virtually taken over as ZANU PF elections director, will be in charge of the campaign that according to our investigation will be unrolled during the constitutional referendum but will reach peak momentum towards elections that are expected to follow the plebiscite.

Muchena is in charge of the campaign’s central command housed at ZANU PF’s national headquarters in Harare.

Other top soldiers of the ranks of major general, brigadier general or air vice-marshal and assisted by CIO agents will head provincial command centres that will direct the onslaught against the MDC in the provinces. Some of the senior commanders have already started work in the provinces meeting ZANU PF and traditional leaders to plot the way forward.

The JOC is convinced that Tsvangirai and his MDC-T party remain the biggest threat to Mugabe retaining power and while paying attention to smaller parties such as Welshman Ncube’s MDC, Simba Makoni’s Mavambo/Kusile/Dwan and Dumiso Dabengwa’s ZAPU will mainly focus on the former union leader and his followers.

According to a source — who is a senior official in the Ministry of Defence —  Major General Engelbert Rugeje will be in charge of Masvingo province.

Rugeje, a notorious Mugabe fanatic who took part in atrocities committed by the army in the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces in the 1980s, has allegedly already started terrorising MDC supporters in Masvingo where he has in recent weeks been blamed of several acts of violence and intimidation against the former opposition party’s supporters.

At least 20 000 innocent civilians died in the army campaign in the Matabeleland and the Midlands provinces that was ostensibly launched to crush anti-Mugabe rebels but randomly targeted civilians from the Ndebele ethnic community dominant in the area and which mainly supported the then main PF-ZAPU opposition party of the late nationalist, Joshua Nkomo.   

In Mugabe’s Mashonaland West home province Brigadier General David Sigauke will run the brutal campaign to keep Mugabe in power, while Brigadier General Douglas Nyikayaramba will be in charge in Manicaland province, said our source, who refused to be named for fear of possible reprisals.

Retired Brigadier General Victor Rungani will be in charge of the campaign in Mashonaland East province while Air Vice Marshal Abu Basutu will oversee matters in Matabeleland South province.

Brigadiers General Sibusio Bussie Moyo, Sibangumuzi Khumalo, Etherton Shungu will oversee matters in the provinces of Midlands, Matebeleland North, Mashonaland Central respectively.

Colonel Chris Sibanda and Air Commodore Mike Tichafa Karakadzai will, respectively, run the campaign to neutralise opposition to Mugabe in the smaller metropolitan provinces of Bulawayo and Harare that are seen as the strongest bastions of Tsvangirai support.

Junior commanders and hundreds of lower ranking soldiers, some of who have already been deployed in recent months in villages in some districts, will be at the disposal of the senior commanders.  But our source was unable to say exactly how many out of Zimbabwe’s ±40 000 soldiers will be put to work campaigning for Mugabe. (See below story full list of senior and junior commanders who will run the campaign)

Torture camps

Hundreds of war veterans who have taken part in previous ZANU PF campaigns including farm invasions will also feature prominently this time round and will along with the youth militia run torture camps at strategic locations in the districts and will also conduct pungwes (all night political education meetings) that will be primarily used to intimidate villagers and warn them about the dangers of voting for Tsvangirai or his MDC party.

The torture camps will be used as centres to punish and breakdown prominent supporters, activists and leaders of Tsvangirai’s MDC in the districts and villages as part of a drive to disable and render dysfunctional the party’s grassroots structures.  

Soldiers and war veterans will play major roles in the campaign but the youth militia trained under a controversial government national youth service programme will be the principal agents of violence, according to our sources.

The youths that are fanatical supporters of Mugabe and ZANU PF have in previous polls sealed off whole districts to the opposition are expected to turn Zimbabwe’s rural areas into virtually no-go areas for the MDC.

While reports in the press last weekend quoting documents from the Ministry of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment said the ministry was looking to train 300 000 militia members annually, a Cabinet minister in the unity government whom we spoke to last December said at present there were about 80 000 youths ready for use in ZANU PF campaigns and programmes.

Gov’t funded-bases

The minister, who only spoke on condition he was not named, said many of the youths had been absorbed into the civil service while a small number remained at the government-funded youth training camps where they are from time to time assigned work by ZANU PF which controls the youth ministry.   

He said: “80 000 had passed through the national youth service by the time it was stopped two years ago. The majority of those who had already graduated before the suspension of the programme have been absorbed into the system.

“Government ministries which absorbed these youths are the ministry of defence through the Zimbabwe National Army, the Ministry of Justice through the prisons service, the home affairs ministry through the police and the ministry of youth.

“Those who have failed to get jobs have remained at the training centres. I know some remain at Dadaya, Guyo, Eaglesnest, Mashayamombe and Mshagashe. These are the most dangerous because this is a group that is readily available to do any sort of work. The centres have remained a crucial structure of violence because they provide government-funded bases.”

Repeated efforts to get comment on the matter from Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and Youth Minister Saviour Kasukuwere were unsuccessful.

But ZANU PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo dismissed the reports that the party had virtually outsourced its electoral campaign to the generals as unfounded and an attempt to smear Mugabe’s party.

Gumbo told ZimOnline:  “That is unfounded. ZANU PF is fully in charge of its programmes. We have the capacity to run our own campaign without involving soldiers. We have seen a pattern to smear ZANU PF and its leaders by falsely claiming that there is violence out there and that we are behind the violence. Now we are supposed to have surrendered our campaign to the army. There is no basis.”

Do-or-die affair

But our investigations have established that ZDF commanders and CIO agents have been holding high-level strategic provincial meetings to plot how to secure Mugabe’s victory in the next elections even before a single ballot is cast.

Analysts have advanced several theories as to why the generals want to stop Tsvangirai from taking power. Others have said the men in uniform fear an MDC government will prosecute them for human rights abuses including the Matabeleland and Midlands massacres, while others say the generals  — or some of them genuinely believe —  rightly or wrongly, that Tsvangirai is a puppet of the West and that they have to stop him to protect the revolution.

And yet others say the generals want Mugabe or a successor appointed by him in power because the veteran President or his appointee will not only protect the commanders from prosecution but will ensure that they retain access to national resources, not least the rich Marange diamond deposits.

But whatever their motive or motives, our investigations showed a group of committed military men who believe that the next elections  — that Mugabe has said must take place this year although they may yet be postponed possibly to 2012 or 2013 — are a do-or-die affair and that they are better off taking matters in their own hands.

The generals are absolutely convinced that a lethargic ZANU PF that is riven by factionalism over Mugabe’s succession cannot on its own win an election against an MDC party that remains hugely popular with the electorate despite the mediocre performance of some of its leaders in the unity government or the WikiLeaks disclosures that painted Tsvangirai as flawed and of questionable executive ability.

For example at a meeting in Manicaland last November, Nyikayaramba and Air Commodore Innocent Chiganze told the ZANU PF provincial leadership that the military was taking over the party’s campaign in order to be able to stop Tsvangirai from winning.

Senior ZANU PF politicians among them Diydmus Mutasa, who is minister of state in Mugabe’s office; Patrick Chinamasa, who is justice minister; deputy economic planning minister Samuel Undenge; former minister Munacho Mutezo, party provincial chairman, Mike Madiro and provincial spokesman Kenneth Saruchera attended the meeting with the two soldiers.

Safe hands

Chiganze told the politicians that the elections were just as crucial as the 1980 elections that ushered in independence from Britain and in which the same military commanders actively campaigned for ZANU PF.

He said the ZANU-PF leadership had failed to effectively campaign because of factionalism and it was now the duty of the army to lead the campaign to defeat Tsvangirai.

According to a source who attended the meeting, Chiganze told the meeting that military generals were ready to retire, but would only do so when they were certain that the country was in the “safe hands” of a ZANU-PF leader.

Chiganze, according to our source, openly told the meeting that the military would never allow Tsvangirai to takeover power and would rather depose him than salute a leader they viewed as an American front.

The Air Commodore told the meeting that soldiers would be deployed in all districts well before the announcement of the election date to seal the off areas and mobilise people.

Chiganze advised the Manicaland ZANU PF leaders that once a date for national elections was announced they should move with speed to organise internal polls to chose candidates to represent the party in the various constituencies in order to give time to soldiers to mount an “effective campaign” well before international observers arrive in the country.

Mutasa and Chinamasa, the most senior ZANU PF leaders at the November meeting, urged all party members to cooperate with the military as was the case during the constitutional outreach programme during which Mugabe’s party was able to push its views and drown those of other parties.

Revolutionary credentials

The meeting between Nyikayaramba, Chiganze and the ZANU PF leaders was a follow up meeting to another one held earlier by Nyikayaramba and over 200 traditional leaders whom he summoned to his army barracks to warn them of the fatal consequences of allowing MDC activities in their areas.

“Some people are saying that Mugabe should be removed from power but that will never happen when we are here. No one without any revolutionary credentials will rule this country. We have no regrets over this statement because a lot of our people sacrificed their lives for the liberation of this country.”

Other senior commanders assigned to the various provinces have also met ZANU PF leaders there to inform them to leave campaigning in the hands of the military.

Zimbabwe’s elections have in the past been blighted by violence and charges of vote rigging, which saw the European Union and United States slapping sanctions on Mugabe, top ZANU-PF members and army generals.

The country last election in 2008 ended in a stalemate that only ended when Tsvangirai and Mugabe bowed to regional pressure to form a government of national unity in February 2009.

The two former foes have appointed a new Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to run new elections expected once a new constitution is in place. But ZEC chairman Simpson Mutambanengwe has complained that the commission lacks resources to fix a chaotic voters’ roll and implement other measures key to ensuring the next polls are free and fair.– ZimOnline

 List Of Soldiers 

The list shows the province, district or constituency in which the soldier will be based and the name of the soldier:

Harare Metropolitan Province – AVM Karakadzai

Bulawayo Province – Col. C. Sibanda

Bulawayo central – Maj. J. Ndhlovu, Maj. J. Ncube

Manicaland and Mutare South – Brig. Tarumbwa

Buhera Central – Col. Morgan. Mzilikazi (MID)

Buhera North – Maj. L. M. Svosve

Buhera South – Maj. D. Muchena

Buhera West – Lt. Col. Kamonge, Major Nhachi

Chimanimani East – Lt. Col. Murecherwa

Chimanimani West – Maj. Mabvuu

Headlands – Col. Mutsvunguma

Makoni North – Maj. V. Chisuko

Makoni South – Wing Commander Mandeya

Mutare Central – Lt. Col. Tsodzai, Lt. Col. Sedze

Mutare West – Lt. Col. B. Kashiri

Mutare North – Lt. Col. Chizengwe, Lt. Col. Mazaiwana

Mashonaland Central – Brig. Gen. Shungu

Bindura South – Col. Chipwere

Bindura North – Lt. Col. Parwada

Muzarabani North – Lt. Col. Kazaza

Muzarabani South – Maj. H. Maziri

Rushinga – Col. F. Mhonda, Lt. Col. Betheuni

Shamva North – Lt. Col. Dzuda

Shamva South – Lt. Col. Makumire

Midlands Province – AVM Muchena, Brig. Gen. S. B. Moyo, Lt Colonel Kuhuni

Chirumhanzu South – Maj T. Tsvangirai

Mberengwa East – Col. B. Mavire

Mberengwa West – Maj T. Marufu

Matebeleland South – AVM Abu Basutu

Beit Bridge East – Group Cpt. Mayera, Rtd. Maj. Mbedzi, Lt. Col. B. Moyo

Gwanda South – Maj J. D. Moyo

Gwanda Central – Maj. B. Tshuma

Matopo North – Lt. Col. Maphosa

Matebeleland North – Brig. Gen. Khumalo

Binga North – Maj E. S. Matonga

Lupane East – Lt Col. Mkwananzi

Lupane West – Lt Col. Mabhena

Tsholotsho – Lt. Col. Mlalazi

Hwange Central – Lt. Col P. Ndhlovu

Masvingo Province – Maj. Gen. E. A. Rugeje,

Bikita West – Maj. B. R. Murwira

Chiredzi Central – Col G. Mashava

Chiredzi West – Maj. E. Gono

Gutu South – Maj. Chimedza

Masvingo – Lt. Col. Takavingofa

Mwenezi West – Lt. Col. Muchono

Mwenezi East – Lt. Col. Mpabanga

Zaka East – Maj. R. Kwenda

Mash West Province – Brig. Gen. Sigauke

Chinhoyi – Col Gwekwerere

Chegutu East – Lt. Colonel W. Tutisa

Hurungwe East – Lt. Col. B. Mabambe

Mhondoro Mubaira – Col. C. T. Gurira

Zvimba North – Cpt. T. Majongwe

Mashonaland East – Rtd. Brig Gen Rungani

Chikomba Central – Lt. Col. Marara

Goromonzi North – Lt Col. Mudzimba, Maj F. Mbewe

Marondera Central – Maj. Gen. Chedondo (COSG), Lt. Col B. Kashiri

Marondera West Squadron Leader – U. Chitauro

Murehwa South – Maj. Gurure

Murehwa North – Lt. Col. Mukurazhizha, Lt. Col. Chinete

Gutu North-Retired Colonel Mutero Masanganise

Gutu South-Colonel Muchechetere

-ZimOnline