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.