PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has given a new lease of life to military generals, many of whom were nearing the retirement age of 60.
Mugabe, through Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi, yesterday reviewed upwards the retirement age for defence forces generals and other serving war veterans from 60 years to 65 years.
According to Statutory Instruments 134 and 135 of 2014 published yesterday, the new regulations by the Defence Forces Service Commission now allow officers who either are war veterans or have served continuously to retire at the age of 65.
With the new rules, generals who were nearing the retirement age of the previously gazetted 60 years have been given a fresh lease of life in the service.
Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) Commander General Constantine Chiwenga, Air Force of Zimbabwe Commander Air
Marshal Perrance Shiri and Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) Commander Lieutenant-General Phillip Valerio Sibanda are likely to be the biggest beneficiaries of the new regulations.
According to Google Search, Chiwenga is 58 and Shiri is 59. NewsDay could not establish Sibanda’s age.
“Provided that a member who is a war veteran as defined in the War Veterans Act (Chapter 11:15) (No 11 of 1992) shall continue to serve for further periods, not exceeding twelve months at a time, until he or she retains the age of sixty-five years,” the new regulations read. “A member who has continued to serve in terms of subsection (5) shall retire on attaining the age of sixty-five years.”
During the inclusive government, MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s party repeatedly called for the retiring of service chiefs, claiming they were partisan in support of Mugabe’s regime, but the veteran leader scoffed at the demands. Tsvangirai’s party has always accused Zanu PF of State-sponsored violence. Before the 2008 presidential run-off, he claimed over 300 of his supporters were killed or maimed by Zanu PF supporters with the aid of security agents.
In February last year when Tsvangirai was still the Prime Minister in the shaky coalition government with Zanu PF, Mugabe unilaterally extended the contracts of the service chiefs, including Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri and Prisons Services boss Paradzai Zimondi without consulting his coalition partner.
MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said the new regulations were a deliberate attempt by Zanu PF to keep the uniformed forces top brass in service where they could be kept highly politicised.
“Professionally, it shouldn’t matter if one is a war veteran,” Mwonzora said. “The move is meant to keep the generals at the higher echelons of power. We are likely to see the same changes by the Police Service Commission to keep Generals Chihuri and Zimondi in power. Giving them longer service is a way of maintaining their loyalty. In fact, the move is targeting to keep Chiwenga, Shiri and Sibanda.”
Mwonzora said the new regulations were likely to impede security sector reforms.
Serving and retired officers from Zimbabwe’s military, police and intelligence have reportedly over the years tightened their stranglehold on Mugabe and Zanu PF. Some of them were deployed in key parastatals including and Zanu PF’s influential political commissariat department, key in formulating strategies for elections.