Friday, December 11, 2009

Succession contenders rumoured to include Chiwenga

The party congress plenary has barely started in earnest but the waves from the struggle for power within the party are already breaking over the delegates. Such is the state of things that rumours are even starting to circulate that the Chief of the Defence Forces Constantine Chiwenga may himself have designs on the Presidency. Of course it is well-known that before the March elections last year Chiwenga made clear that the army would support the President against the election of sell-outs. Anyone would think it was election time again so feverish are the rumours.

The current rumours appear to have been sparked initially by the Pomona affair. The mysterious disappearance of some 20-odd weapons from the Pomona army barracks in late October resulted in the arrest of an MDC man and a number of service personnel some of whom have been reported to have died in custody. This has led to considerable concern in the army as some of those arrested, including officers and war veterans, are alleged to have been tortured and/or died in custody. There is a suspicion that all is not as it seems - it rarely is in Mugabe's Zimbabwe - and that the theft of the weapons was in fact a conspiracy dreamt up by the top brass for political reasons - to try to implicate the MDC in coup-plotting.

Whatever the truth to these rumours, there is concern reaching up to quite a high level in the military about the mounting professional cost to the army of the personal political agenda of the the CDF. It was the heads of the security forces, Chiwenga and Chihuri in particular, who persuaded Mugabe to mount the campaign of intimidation that led to his uncontested re-election last year - their concern then was for their own necks, not the interests of the party, the army or the police. That campaign caused real damage to all three - though Mugabe was re-elected his legitimacy suffered definitive damage, forcing him into power-sharing.

If Mugabe had embarked on a negotiating procees in the immediate aftermath of the March elections he could have negotiated much better terms for himself and the party. As for the army and the police, many of whom were already disillusioned with the recent direction of the party they were the ones who were obliged to bear the consequences of their participation in the intimidation with the people.

Although the senior ranks felt this less than those in the front line, they still felt it. But what has aggravated a lot of more senior officers recently is that their promotion prospects are beginning to be adversely affected. Chiwenga is increasingly surrounding himself with fellow Zezurus. In fact there is said to be deep resentment across the security forces, particularly amongst the Karanga, at the over-promotion fo the Zezurus. It is almost as if their leaders increasingly surrounded and threatened by the forces of change are retreating into a Zezuru laager.

Of course Chiwenga is something of a mirror of his master in this respect. Mugabe's security chiefs are all Zezuru - Chiwenga commanding the Armed Forces, Chihuri the police, Zimondi the prisons, even Bonyongwe at the CIO. Of all of these however those who would appear to have done least to earn their current power are Chiwenga and Chihuri. They therefore are prepared to do almost anything to ensure Mugabe stays put. Their power base stems from solely from their relationship with him. This has only added to the widespread resentment in the ranks below them in their respective services because of their past history on which I will comment further later

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