Zimbabwe military fractures as divisions deepen in ruling party

Zimbabwe’s military is fracturing along generational lines in a potentially dangerous turn for the southern African nation as President Robert Mugabe’s ruling party splits over who will succeed him.

The head of Zimbabwe Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) Happyton Bonyongwe (L) with Constantine Chiwenga, the commander of the Zimbabwean Army (C) listen to President Robert Mugabe at Harare Airport, on July 03, 2008.
The head of Zimbabwe Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) Happyton Bonyongwe (L) with Constantine Chiwenga, the commander of the Zimbabwean Army (C) listen to President Robert Mugabe at Harare Airport, on July 03, 2008.

With Mugabe approaching his 93rd birthday and Zimbabwe’s economy imploding, some top military leaders are choosing sides in faction fights of the ruling Zimbabwe-African National Union-Patriotic Front, said four members of the party’s politburo who spoke on condition of anonymity. Veterans of the independence war against the white-minority state of Rhodesia mainly back Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa against Mugabe’s wife, Grace, they said.

The splits threaten the cohesion of a military that’s been a pillar of Mugabe’s power base since the armed struggle that led to independence in 1980. With rising protests over an economy that has halved in size since 2000, who senior army commanders support in the ruling party may determine the southern African nation’s next president.

“The generals are involved in a war of generations,” said Alex Magaisa, a U.K.-based law lecturer and one of the authors of Zimbabwe’s 2013 constitution. “The liberation generation wants to hold on to power against the post-liberation generation, which wants to wrest control of the party leadership.”

Faction Fight

General Constantine Chiwenga, the 60-year-old commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, supports Mnangagwa, who’s served in Mugabe’s cabinet since independence. Major General Douglas Nyiakaramba, chief of administration, is backing a faction that has coalesced around Grace Mugabe, the people said.

Army commander General Philip Sibanda, who once led United Nations peacekeeping forces in Angola, has stayed out of the dispute, they said. The three officers weren’t available to comment, a telephone operator, who refused to provide his name, said Wednesday when Bloomberg called army headquarters.

The Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association, once used to subdue opposition protests and spearhead policies such as the seizure of white-owned commercial farms, criticized Mugabe in July, saying he “presided over untold suffering of the general population for his own personal aggrandizement and that of his cronies.”

Former Vice President Joice Mujuru, who was expelled from Zanu-PF two years ago and now leads the Zimbabwe People First party, still enjoys sympathy among officers. She’s the widow of former defense forces commander Solomon Mujuru, who died in a house fire five years ago. Joice Mujuru says the general, a hero to most Zimbabweans, was assassinated.

Mnangagwa, a 69-year-old former security minister, heads a faction in the ruling party known as Lacoste, taken from the French sportswear firm Lacoste’s logo, a crocodile, Mnangagwa’s nickname. Opposing it is a group known as Generation-40, who are made up of generally younger supporters of 51-year-old Grace Mugabe, who critics call “Gucci Grace” for her allegedly extravagant lifestyle.

Older Leaders

“G-40 is more civilian oriented; the generals look to older party leaders who actually carried guns in the war for the main part,” said Flowers Mawowa, a Zimbabwean researcher at the Southern African Liaison Office in Pretoria, the capital of neighboring South Africa. “Zanu-PF has a history of military involvement in politics dating back to the 1970s that has never disappeared.”

Mugabe has faced increased protests in recent months as an unprecedented liquidity crisis has led to civil servants, including military officers and troops, receiving salaries late and some private-sector workers being given goods instead of pay. That sparked a national strike on July 6 that shut down much of Zimbabwe. The country was also hit by riots as taxi operators protested against police harassment.

Freer Atmosphere

“It seems that across the security sector, including the police, there’s less inclination to clamp down on protest,” Mawowa said. “The atmosphere is much more open now, even in the rural areas people aren’t as afraid of Zanu-PF as they were.”

The older generation of officers will probably stick with the Mnangagwa faction because they have seen how Grace’s supporters orchestrated the expulsion of Mujuru, a war veteran, from the ruling party,  Magaisa said.

“The generals are looking to their future; they know they’ll soon leave active duty and must prepare for life after it,” he said. “They’ve also seen how the G-40 approach is built around the erosion of the older war generation.” Bloomberg

  • vieux na nga azokufa na pouvoir na maboko

  • fracture or no fracture #asisesabi…….

  • Senior Officer

    The military should just declare itself non partisan and ask for internationally monitored elections. Reason being Zimbabweans are suffering and there has to be a reform not maybe exactly change. If Chivengwa does that surely he will have respect not just by Zimbabweans but the rest of the world. Anyone can be a hero or can lead Zim at this point. Vanhu vaomerwa and it is high time everyone plays a part. This is nolonger an issue of Zanu Pf’s survival but that of the people of Zimbabwe. Most of us have been hoping since 1998 and all we need is food oin the table, a job and taking our children to school including feeding our parents and giving them decent burials. It hurts that noone cares including an Army which is suppose to protect us!

  • (Prof )Changamire Gudo (Phd)

    Interesting times indeed if, there is peace to prevail in Zimbabwe the ARMY has to remove itself from ZANU PF and act PARTISAN. with G40 and LACOSTE in bitter fights the ARMY should not take sides and with ZANU PF against Opposition parties the army must not take sides. Because at the end of the DAY Zimbabwe is in for a change whether ZANU PF or opposition parties
    unfortunately unless there are international monitors at the elections then we could have a CIVIL war because in reality we have 3 groups contesting the presidency basically GRACE MUGABE, MNANGAGWA , MUJURU, TSVANGIRAI/BITI its a hellish battle be prepared comrades the shit can hit the fan anytime

    its better for tajamuka to take over we can have zvorwadza or dzamara there

  • The 92 yr old Ancestor my go back 2 hell.

  • ZimMatata

    The fact of the matter is that, the majority of the Liberation Generation were involved in massacres such as Chiadzwa, Gukurahundi and other atrocities together with Emmerson Mnangangwa as head of Security. They therefore feel safer in Mnangagwa’s hands than anyone else. Don’t forgot, the main issue is ending up in the Hague to answer for their charges.

  • this picture though..

  • Taryn Nefdt

    “Veterans of the independence war against the white-minority state of Rhodesia mainly back Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa against Mugabe’s wife, Grace, they said.”

    You mean veterans of Gukurahundi since many claiming to be Bush war vets are way too young to have fought in the Bush War.

    Constantine Chiwenga et al belong in jail for crimes against humanity – both the military and the police force in Zim are just ZANU’s private security company that they turn on civilians for the most part.

  • This is grandfather must retire. Imagine my father saluted him, l saluted him, my son salutes him and my grandson will salute him.

  • Idiot

    we need a thomas sankara

  • chimugoti

    Day dreaming

  • Lethal Sansole

    zim millitary completely compromised and it starts at the top with sibanda na chiwenga

  • GZD

    This is bullshit. We are all entitled to participate, determine our futures independently, dependently and interdependently. Mugabe is not an emperor nor King. He is President. This os the most important job in the country. The idea that Zanu-PF opportunists want to succeed Mugabe is their own dream. However, the people of Zimbabwe have a dream and a goal of ridding the nation of this social debilitating cancer and klepto-culture of bankrupt leadership. We want results and i’m not sorry to say that after Mugabe in Zanu-PF there is no one who can lead. They are all klepto maniacs and control freaks.

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