THE Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) yesterday called President Robert Mugabe to order and directed him to immediately stop the ongoing purge on former Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s allies ahead of Zanu PF’s extraordinary congress next month.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
ZDF Commander General Constantino Chiwenga told journalists at the army’s KGIV headquarters in Harare that the threat to the nation and Zanu PF by “counter-revolutionaries” in the ruling party could force the army to “step in”.
Chiwenga made four key demands that Mugabe should urgently fulfil failure which the army could “step in”, which are “to stop reckless utterances by politicians from the ruling party denigrating the military which is causing alarm and despondency within the rank and file; that the current purging of which is clearly targeting members of the party with a liberation background must stop forthwith; that the known counter-revolutionary elements who have fomented the current instability in the party must be exposed and fished out; and as the party goes for the extraordinary congress, members must go with equal opportunity to exercise their democratic rights.”
At the press briefing, the defiant Chiwenga, who was flanked by Zimbabwe National Army commander Lt General Philip Valerio Sibanda, Air Vice Marshal Elson Moyo, army chief of staff (administration) Major General Douglas Nyikayaramba, over 90 major generals, brigadier generals, wing commanders and senior army commanders raised concern about the dismissal of Mnangagwa and other senior party officials with liberation war credentials.
“It is pertinent to restate that the Zimbabwe Defence Forces remain the major stockholder in respect to the gains of the liberation struggle and when these are threatened we are obliged to take corrective measures,” he said.
“It is with great humility and a heavy heart that we come before you to pronounce the indisputable reality that there is instability in Zanu PF today and as a result anxiety in the country at large. What is obtaining in the revolutionary party is a direct result of the machinations of counter-revolutionaries who have infiltrated the party and whose agenda is to destroy it from within,” Chiwenga added.
“It is saddening to see the revolution being hijacked by agents of our erstwhile enemies who are now on the brink of returning our country to foreign domination against which so many of our people perished.”
Chiwenga threatened retribution on all Zanu PF counter-revolutionaries bent on “destroying the party from within”.
Zanu PF secretary for science and technology and Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo, who during the time he was expelled, argued that the ruling party could only be destroyed from within.
Moyo is a leading figure in Zanu PF’s G40 faction that engineered Mnangagwa’s recent expulsion from both government and the ruling party on allegations of disloyalty, deceit and attempting to usurp power from Mugabe, among others. Other key members of the G40 faction include First Lady Grace Mugabe, party commissar Saviour Kasukuwere and Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko.
Mnangagwa reportedly leads a rival faction Team Lacoste.
The belligerent military hitherto seen as a malleable tool in Mugabe’s hands, was believed to be sympathetic to Mnangagwa’s bid to succeed the 93-year-old leader and was until his expulsion, a leading contender.
Mugabe who is Commander-in Chief of ZDF, has already been endorsed as Zanu PF presidential candidate for the 2018 election but with the new turn of events, the veteran leader could be challenged by Mnangagwa at next month’s elective congress.
However, it remains to be seen if Mnangagwa’s allies will make it to the central committee given that delegates to the congress could be elected this week.
Chiwenga warned that the current purging and cleansing process in Zanu PF, which so far was targeting mostly members associated with the liberation history was a cause for serious concern in the military, adding they could be forced to take over levers of power if Zanu PF failed to put its house in order.
“But what is significant to us and the generality of Zimbabweans is to remember that all these rebellions were defused by the military, but at no point did the military usurp power. We must remind those behind the current treacherous shenanigans that when it comes to matters of protecting our revolution the military will not hesitate to step in,” the defence forces chief said.
In comments that echoed demands by the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association, Chiwenga demanded that the counter-revolutionaries be expelled from the ruling party forthwith. The ZDF boss, in a thinly veiled attack on Grace’s denigration of the military, demanded that this should stop.
“…We strongly urge the party to stop reckless utterances by politicians from the ruling party denigrating the military which is causing alarm and despondence within the rank and file.
“The current purging which is clearly targeting members of the party with a liberation background must stop forthwith. The known counter-revolutionary elements who have fomented the current instability in the party must be exposed and fished out. As the party goes for the extraordinary congress, members must go with equal opportunity to exercise their democratic rights,” Chiwenga said, in a statement seen as paving way for Mnangagwa’s come back into the ruling party.
Chiwenga said Zimbabweans and especially those that survived the liberation struggle “live on the spirited hope of seeing a prosperous Zimbabwe and also the hope of leaving behind inheritance and legacy for posterity”.
He said Zanu PF’s internal power struggles had left the country on edge, adding this should not be allowed to continue, lest it creates anarchy.
“… it is common cause that any instability within the party naturally impacts on their social, political and economic lives. Accordingly there is distress, trepidation and despondency within the nation. Our peace-loving people who have stood by their government and endured some of the most trying social and economic conditions ever experienced are extremely disturbed by what is happening in the national revolutionary party,” he said.
“The famous slogan espoused by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Head of State and Government and Commander in Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces Cde R G Mugabe ‘Zimbabwe will never be a colony again’ is being seriously challenged by counter-revolutionary infiltrators who are now influencing the direction of the party. It is our strong and deeply considered position that if drastic action is not taken immediately our beloved Zimbabwe is definitely headed to become a neo-colony again.”
Chiwenga added: “As a result of squabbling within the ranks of Zanu PF, there has been no meaningful development in the country for the past five years. The resultant economic impasse has ushered in more challenges to the Zimbabwean populace such as cash shortages and rising commodity prices”.
The army chief also said: “Unfortunately since the turn of 2015, Zanu PF’s traditional protocol and procedures have changed with a lot of gossiping, backbiting and public chastisement being the order of the day. Indeed the party is undoing its legacy built over the years.
“While our people might be persuaded to take what is going on in Zanu PF, as internal political matters in that party, the truth remains that Zanu PF’s conduct and behaviour as a ruling party has a direct impact on the lives of every citizen, hence all of us regardless of political affiliation are affected by the party’s manner of doing business.”
Chiwenga warned Zimbabwe could descend into anarchy citing examples of Somalia, DRC and Central African Republic where minor political differences degenerated into serious conflict that has “decimated the social, political and economic security of ordinary people”.
“Among other security threats that are coming out of what is obtaining in Zanu PF are the reckless utterances by politicians denigrating the military which are causing despondence within the rank and file.
“Further we note with concern the attempts by some politicians to drive a wedge between the security services for their own selfish interests. This is unacceptable. We take great exception to this behaviour.”
Following his expulsion last week, Mnangagwa vowed to come back to Zimbabwe in the next few weeks to “take control of the levers of power”.
“I will go nowhere. I will fight tooth and nail against those making a mockery of Zanu PF founding principles, ethos and values.
“You (Mugabe) and your cohorts will instead leave Zanu PF by the will of the people and this we will do in the coming few weeks as Zimbabweans in general now require new and progressive leadership that is not resident in the past and refuses to accept change,” he said.
Mnangagwa also called on his supporters not to ditch the party but remain holding fort, so that they could deliver a decisive blow on Mugabe.