Zimbabwe’s armed forces boss, Constantine Chiwenga made headlines when he addressed a press conference in Harare on Monday. He was wobbling on about saving the “revolution,” so that Zanu PF can win elections again next year.
Most know he supports Emmerson Mnangagwa, sacked as vice president last week because Robert Mugabe lost his temper after a few people boo’ed his wife, Grace, at a rally 10 days ago.
So the fear is, in some quarters, soldiers will go on the rampage and the army will have a shoot out with the police who support Grace Mugabe and her G 40 faction in Zanu PF.
This squabbling within Zanu PF is about who succeeds Robert Mugabe, who will be 94 when he stands for re election next year.
Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, wants to succeed Mugabe. He never made a secret of this.
He felt cheated in 2004, when Mugabe, appointed Joice Mujuru, 62, as the first woman vice president of Zimbabwe. She was wife to the one man Mugabe feared, liberation war-time commander, Solomon Mujuru,
Mnangagwa was infuriated. And time was ticking. Joice Mujuru was popular, much younger then he, she didn’t, like he, have a bad human rights record, and, yes, she was a woman.
But Joice Mujuru could also easily win a parliamentary seat in her home area and he was beaten in two elections by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change candidate.
So Joice built up support and most provinces supported her ahead of the Zanu PF congress in 2014.
Mnangagwa went into an alliance with Grace Mugabe who has the most expensive life style Zimbabweans have ever seen.
So part of the plan to get rid of Joice Mujuru meant Grace Mugabe had to get into a top post in Zanu PF. So she was first manipulated into leadership of the Zanu PF women’s league. Then she was awarded a phoney PhD at the University of Zimbabwe - Joice Mujuru had recently been awarded her PhD after years of study - and then Grace began a series of rallies around Zimbabwe telling outrageous lies about Joice Mujuru.
And then that was that. Mujuru lost her post in Zanu PF at the party congress, and she was then expelled from the party accused of wanting to murder Mugabe, commit a coup d’etat, etc.
Grace Mugabe was then safe from Mujuru who she feared might be more popular then her husband. And her ally in the ousting of Joice Mujuru Mnangagwa became vice president. Finally, ten years later then he planned.
So Chiwenga’s press conference was not about democracy: he made it clear previously that he, as a senior civil servant, was partisan, That he and his colleagues would not recognise the MDC if it won power at the polls. He would not salute MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai if he became president of Zimbabwe.
His press conference on Monday was about his pal Emmerson.
Chiwenga would say, in confidence, (not on any public platform) that he believes Mnangagwa should inherit the presidential crown when Mugabe dies or quits.
Even he would not dare say Mnangagwa should take over now, because Mugabe is too old. But that is what many believe, especially those in the business community as Mugabe has been a disastrous president at every level. Zimbabwe has no currency, can’t settle foreign and domestic debt, there is no money in the banks, and, the health sector collapsed and even education, especially in the rural areas is so much worse then most realise.
So Chiwenga, surrounded by members of the airforce and other senior military men, is furious that Mnangagwa has been kicked out. That many of their allies within Zanu PF are now under threat and may be purged.
He, Chiwenga, might be on his way out too. His contract expired in July.
No one is sure whether the army would indeed challenge the police and move against Mugabe. But the fear is there.
Grace Mugabe’s G40 faction doesn’t necessarily want her to succeed Mugabe, as president, they almost certainly know that is a step too far, and she is irrational and unbalanced and too greedy, but they want her there as vice president to protect Mugabe until he dies, or cannot rule any longer, and then they will probably want defence minister Sidney Sekeramayi in his place.
At this stage, to call on the ‘revolution’, as Chiwenga has done, has unknown consequences. Mnangagwa, on his own, can’t win elections. In an alliance with the MDC, Joice Mujuru and others, maybe he could.
The political waters in Harare are murky. Many commentators are not sure what to say. But David Coltart, Zimbabwe’s pre eminent human rights lawyer, who learned politics as a newly qualified young man when he acted for many opposition leaders who were brutalised by Mugabe and Zanu PF shortly after independence, said on Wednesday: “Zimbabwe faces a grave constitutional crisis. For all the ambiguity in General Chiwenga’s statement, it challenges President Mugabe, either to turn his back on his wife and other members of the G40 faction, or face the wrath of the military…..”
Independent Foreign Service