Thursday, August 5, 2010

ZANU factions are the problem

Needless to say there are those that dismiss the reports of a dossier on Chiwenga as just more evidence of the factionalism within ZANU(PF). It is unlikely but not impossible that factions within ZANU-PF have played a part in this saga. But this is precisely the issue. I have long been arguing for the need for the party to overcome its factional differences and unite around a policy that traditional ZANU(PF) supporters can identify with. The party's factionalism - and its failure to focus on the real national interest - has undermined this traditional support and created the political space for the MDC to occupy. Worse still it has laid the country open to the sort of military takeover Chiwenga appears to be making plans for, whether in association with his nominal political masters or independently with the other security chiefs.

I have no ZANU faction axe to grind - my loyalty like that of so many Zimbabweans is to the ideals of the liberation movement rather than to the narrow political interests of any one faction My concern is that it is no longer the party but the security apparatus that is dictating policy. I lament that the party has lost its direction and grip to such an extent that it is a corrupt elite rather than the party that runs the country and that the elite is only able to run it by gradually ceding ever more power to the security forces. It is not any one faction that presents the challenge to our future prosperity but the creeping dictatorship epitomised by this growing dependence on an unelected security apparatus.

Ironically the so-called inclusive government is proving merely a mask behind which the status quo is consolidating its grip. The country is moving inexorably towards authoritarianism of the worst order - in which the security chiefs are inextricably linked in a corrupt partnership with a self-serving minority to deprive the mass of the people of their national inheritance in order to preserve their own position. What sort of improvement does this represent on the colonialism we fought so hard to defeat?

The wealth of Marange is being kept from the people and the government coffers by uniformed men armed with guns they are content to use against their own people to ensure that this fabulous wealth keeps the few in pampered luxury while the mass remain deprived. Much of the national wealth is being siphoned off abroad just as it was in the colonial era. The socialism our President once espoused has been turned on its head in the pursuit of narrow self-interest and not even the few beacons of the remaining free press are able to stand up to it. It is difficult to see who will.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Damning Dossier - The End for Chiwenga?

An incriminating dossier on the political ambitions of the Chief of the Defence Forces, Constantine Chiwenga, due to be presented to Mugabe shortly will present the President with a difficult dilemma on the eve of Armed Forces Day. What action to take on the detailed evidence contained in the dossier on the plans of General Chiwenga for an effective takeover of power? The dilemma will be exacerbated by the fact that Chiwenga's preparations to take over the reins of power have been in no small part facilitated by the plans of the Joint Operations Command to ensure that the MDC is kept from power at the next elections. For the first time, however, Mugabe will see evidence of Chiwenga positioning himself for a personal bid for the Presidency on the back of the JOC's contingency planning for the next election

For much of the past couple of years since the March 2008 elections, Chiwenga has been able to consolidate his personal power base in pursuit of objectives he shared with his party and agreed specifically with his JOC colleagues. But as uncertainty over future elections, the health of Mugabe and the succession in ZANU(PF) has grown, the Defence Force Chief found it necessary to work increasingly on his own personal agenda. Not long ago Mugabe was alarmed to discover how significant elements, both in the ranks and at a senior level, had been alienated by moves Chiwenga had made to secure his own dominance of the military. In response a retired CIO officer was tasked to conduct a detailed investigation into Chiwenga's personal and professional affairs to assess the scale of the problem. It took this investigation to uncover Chiwenga's independent political aspirations.

It is not clear at precisely what point Chiwenga's personal political ambitions started to diverge from those of the JOC, but from square one it has been clear that neither he nor closest associates in the security forces, Prisons Chief Zimondi and Police Chief Chihuri, were prepared to give any ground to MDC. It was these three above all others who persuaded Mugabe to stay on after his defeat in March 2008 and then delivered him an uncontested presidential election in June. It was Chiwenga who oversaw the military takeover of the Chiadzwa diamond mines in November 2008 and first went looking for Chinese and other partners to help exploit them. He, Zimondi and Chihuri all refused to recognise the legitimacy of Morgan Tsvangirai's premiership once the inclusive government was formed and Chiwenga ensured that the new MDC Finance Minister could not access the fabulous wealth potential of Marange for the national benefit. But all these moves to consolidate his own control fitted with the will of Mugabe and the JOC, if not with all the factions within ZPF.

It appears to have been in the build-up to the party congress at the end of last year that the first signs started to emerge of Chiwenga going his own way, independently of Mugabe or ZPF. The incident that first attracted attention was the Pomona barracks incident in which the determination of Chiwenga to deal ruthlessly with discontent in the ranks was brutally demonstrated in the torturing of soldiers (survivors have since been exonerated of any wrongdoing). At the same time Chiwenga was getting increasingly worried about the factionalism within the party itself. These worries only increased with the divisiveness that became apparent at the party congress itself, the results of which did not appear to work in favour of Minister of Defence Mnangagwa, with whom Chiwenga had albeit reluctantly aligned his political fortunes. The congress brought home to him how little hope there was of ZPF holding together as a political force in the post-Mugabe era and of Mugabe ever appointing a successor. He himself had hoped to secure a political role within the party from which to launch his leadership bid but when it didn't materialise he began to doubt even Mugabe's commitment to him.

Since then he has developed a two-track stategy - to exploit the agenda of the JOC (and the political aspirations of Mnanagagwa) to continue to secure military control on ever more levers of power; and to consolidate his personal control over the security machinery and the resource necessary to secure power through patronage.

There is apparently no suggestion in the dossier that Chiwenga is moving to oust Mugabe himself in whose shadow he is content to operate for the time being. However, it does show how he is actively

- preparing the ground for the day that Mugabe is no longer strong enough to rule effectively. This involves refining a JOC strategy for taking power which requires the retention in the new constitution of a clause obliging the executive to 'protect the gains of the struggle'. This clause would enable Chiwenga, when necessary, to manufacture a crisis in which those gains appeared to be threatened, allowing the security services to adopt a central role in restoring order.

- using his many connections abroad, especially in China and the Far East, to build the business infrastructure to stock his personal war chest in advance of the next elections, which he would like to be held before the middle of 2011. He has already secured a sizeable revenue stream from the illegal sale of Marange diamonds, which he has been using to distribute patronage to supporters and attack his key political rival, Rex Mujuru. Siphoning-off revenue which should have been destined for others to overseas accounts including via front companies in the UK and US. According to the report, his personal fortune already exceeds $80 million.

- amassing and securing for himself an off-budget supply of arms, including 800 Chinese-made AK-47s, ~300 pistols, 30,000 rounds of ammunition. Chiwenga has also been developing different routes to smuggle weapons into the country.

- shoring up his own position including by over-promoting loyal officers and moving his inner circle of loyal senior commanders into key positions; using his power as CDF and access to Mugabe to undermine the positions of more moderate figures within the military command structure (he is said to have drawn up a hit list of disloyal officers whom he suspects would side with MDC and/or reformist elements in ZPF if it ever came to choosing between a violent election campaign and a negotiated solution).

- doing everything necessary to convince Mnangagwa of his support fot the latter's aspirations while making his own plans to perpetuate Zezuru control into the post-Mugabe era (he is determined no Karanga should succeed Mugabe despite his apparent change of alliance from Mujuru to Mnanagagwa).

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Chiwenga neglects his greatest asset at his peril

It is striking how neglectful ZANU PF are of the military at a time when arguably the elite in the party are more dependent on them than ever before if they are to retain power.

Many in the military, while loyal to ZANU PF, were deeply uncomfortable with the role they played in the presidential re-election campaign of June 2008. And thereafter, Junior officers and soldiers in particular were understandably frustrated over their terms and conditions of service, particularly with regard to the provision of food, equipment, uniforms, and the poor condition of ZDF accommodation. Chiwenga was inclined to be dismissive, saying complaints of this nature were normal and should not be blown out of proportion.

His view seems to be that strong leadership is all that is required to ensure there is no dissent and that it is soldiers' expectations that needed to be kept under control.

Chiwenga has seemed only concerned to protect own position by promoting his favourites and clamping down on elements he does not trust. He is not concerned about addressing the underlying problems. Chiwenga seems to have no appreciation of the resentment that builds up in the lower ranks over the senior ranks' exploitation of their position, not least in the case of the diamonds in Marange, where soldiers have been able to observe the looting first-hand. Even by the senior ranks, he is held largely responsible for the very low morale in the armed forces and the overall decline in standards in all departments of the military is laid firmly at Chiwenga's door.

The mood in the military has become increasingly charged since the Pomona barracks affair in latter part of last year. The incident provoked widespread suspicion at the time that Chiwenga had stage-managed the theft and the subsequent arrests of over one hundred soldiers and officers on suspicion of involvement in the crime. Chiwenga had been arousing growing resentment across the army command by surrounding himself with a cabal of Zezuru officers, some of whom were believed to have assisted him with the theft from Pomona.

Chiwenga genuinely sees himself as a future political leader outside of the armed forces in Zimbabwe. At least until the party congress he was reportedly confident that Mugabe would secure him a senior political position before he left office. This confidence was largely rooted in the knowledge that Mugabe was indebted to him for surviving as president after the 2008 elections - and would be reliant on his services at the next elections. He is however reported to be disappointed that he has not already been given that senior political position. He may find he needs the support of the Armed Forces if his ever to secure his political ambitions - in which case he will have to look after their interests rather better than he has done to date.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Why has Chiwenga decided to go it alone?

Fear that unless he was in control of his own destiny his own future security could never be guaranteed. Initially he thought his destiny could safely remain tied to Mugabe - at least as long as the latter conceded no ground to the MDC. From the outset, Chiwenga was prepared to do anything and everything to ensure that MDC was not allowed to govern.

He was particularly opposed to any MDC role within the security sector and went out of his way to ensure that the National Security Bill, drafted in March 2009, did not allow the National Security Council any powers over the JOC. Indeed, the National Security Bill was designed to be impossible to implement. It was planned as a concession to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai early on in the IG, giving him something to claim as a victory while keeping him away from the security forces.

But Chiwenga remained alarmed at the credit the MDC was getting for some of the reforms that came in in the first year of the IG. He was particularly concerned at the divisive effect that so-called MDC success was having on ZANU PF and increasing evidence of factionalism in the party.

This was all too evident at the ZANU PF Congress in December, when it was agreed behind closed doors that, in the event of 'chaos' in Zimbabwe, the army should take power. As a result, ever since the Congress, Chiwenga has been securing funding, training militia and consolidating the military's presence in government. Indeed, the army already has 'plain clothes' military personnel in every ministry, local government and in key positions controlling the rural areas.

Chiwenga and Mnangagwa had worked out a detailed gameplan against the possibility of Mugabe's early death. But Chiwenga had difficulty persuading his senior officers to side with Mnangagwa rather than Mujuru (to whom traditionally many of them felt much greater loyalty). Chiwenga therefore decided to stick with the gameplan but drop Mnangagwa from the starring role.

Chiwenga who had found it expedient to align himself with Mnangagwa rather than Mujuru, after Mugabe made the former defence Minister, the Party Congress convinced him that neither could be trusted to steer the country through without provoking violent confrontation between their factions. Only Chiwenga as CDF acting in concert with his closest allies in the security machinery, his former commander Paradzai Zimondi and Police Chief Chihuri, could secure continuity of power.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Chiwenga - paving the way to the leadership

Chiwenga had long ago secured his own personal fortune through the illicit plunder of the DRC and the expropriation of property in Zimbabwe. He also made millions through exchange rate manipulation as inflation soared after the mismanagement of the economy by Gideon Gono. And, since March 2008, Chiwenga had been able to consolidate his own personal power while appearing to be doing so exclusively in pursuit of the president's and the party's interests.

As with Mugabe himself, his main weapon was fear. As soon as the results of the March elections started coming in, Chiwenga and his two cronies, Chihuri and Zimondi, started persuading Mugabe that he could not risk accepting the result - the consequences for them all were too unpredictable and potentially devastating. The Security Chiefs would deliver a Mugabe victory in the second round whatever happened. Having won this argument with Mugabe, Chiwenga built a community of interest within ZANU PF around this, most importantly, with Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was later to be nominated Defence Minister by Mugabe.

The next step was to ensure that he delivered the necessary outcome with Operation Makavhoterapapi (For whom did you vote?). This was done in June by resorting to such levels of violence and intimidation that no other country could bring themselves to recognise the outcome. Mugabe's election might have been lost had it not been for the intervention of Thabo Mbeki who brokered the Global Political Agreement that ultimately led to the Inclusive Government that gave Mugabe back his legitimacy.

Meanwhile Chiwenga had been busy cultivating his relations with the Chinese. His first attempt to buy arms from the Chinese was prevented by an international outcry when they tried to offload arms for him in South Africa and Angola. Undeterred, Chiwenga engaged the Chinese in joint ventures in Marange. The vast diamond wealth here held the potential not just to pay for any arms shipments but to house an airstrip to enable the illicit import of arms and equally illicit export of diamonds. First however he had to secure control of the country's most significant source of revenue. In October 2008, Operation Hakudzokwi (You Won't Come Back) was launched by the army, police and intelligence officers was launched to take over the Marange field. The crackdown which began on October 27 with military helicopters indiscriminately firing automatic weapons to drive out the diggers, lasted three weeks and more than 200 perished.

Once secured, Chiwenga needed to ensure that the fields were only mined by bodies controlled by the JOC. Air Vice Marshal Robert Mhlanga was the man chosen to spearhead the new mining arrangement. Two companies with no previous experience of diamond mining, Mbada and Canadile, both based in South Africa, became the front for JOC's exploitation of the fields.

Throughout this period, Chiwenga was securing a firmer and firmer grip on the army ,ruthlessly stifling discontent in the ranks of the military. In December 2008, after soldiers sided with poor protesters to protest against the collapsing economy,16 soldiers were shot in cold blood by members of the presidential guard. Three others died during torture.

In October 2009, at least 12 more soldiers died after being tortured following the disappearance of arms and other military equipment from the Pomona barracks. A further 120 apparently survived horrific torturing.

This clampdown has been accompanied by preferential treatment for Chiwenga's cronies. The most significant recent appointment is that of Brigadier General Douglas Nyikayaramba to Mutare to run the 3 Infantry brigade and control the Chiadzwa diamond fields. Nyikayaramba played a crucial role in fixing the 2008 presidential run-off.

Chiwenga also needed to secure for himself a private supply of weapons and the means to get them into the country. Chiwenga has been an increasingly regular visitor to China in the last couple of years, especially since military control of the diamond fields gave him the opportunity to achieve this. According to reliable reports, Chinese in military fatigues helped in the construction of the military airstrip at Marange which has a one-mile-long runway capable of taking the biggest military transport planes. Some of these were reported to be armed. Shipping containers filled with weapons have been seen on the airstrip.

Slowly but surely Chiwenga has been putting all the pieces in place to ensure that no-one can contest his bid for the top job.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Chiwenga playing a double game with Mnangagwa

In recent years it has been expedient and professionally necessary for Chiwenga to be seen to support Mnangagwa, especially in supporting Mnanagwa's aspirations to take over the Presidency from Mugabe. However, he is deeply uneasy about tying his own political aspirations to a Karanga.

While content to hide in Mnangagwa's shadow in support for his presidential pretensions, I have it on good authority that he has been making plans to succeed Mugabe himself. It has not been difficult to build his own plans around the contingency planning for Mugabe's death which relies heavily on the military. Mnangagwa will only realise when his own plans are well advanced that Chiwenga has had a different agenda.

This is not merely a question of Chiwenga feeling more secure with the current Zezuru ascendancy - as a former supporter of the Mujuru camp, he feels that he will be better placed to unite the party behind him than Mnangagwa. Indeed he has come to believe that only he can save Zimbabwe from being torn apart by the factionalism within ZANU and the struggle between ZANU and the MDC.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Chiwenga plans to succeed Mugabe

Ever since Chiwenga saw President Mugabe teeter on the brink of accepting the election outcome in March 2008, he has desired to take the reins of power in Zimbabwe. Since that time, Chiwenga has been striving to twist the whole country around his little finger. Up to now, Chiwenga has succeeded in hiding his agenda behind the interests of the party, especially the JOC.

Now, Chiwenga is more than ever desparate to consolidate his power base - Mugabe is aging fast, factionalism is now tearing ZANU apart. But he has alienated a small number of people among the elite in the process, people who will not benefit from Chiwenga's scheming and who will alert Mugabe to Chiwenga's plot.

Chiwenga seems to have secured money to fund his war chest for the next elections when he plans to make a bid for the Presidency. Chiwenga believes he is the only one who can protect the gains of the struggle and his own interests when Mugabe's failing health finally forces him to step down.