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Tongues wag over Bonyongwe posting

By Gift Phiri

The unexpected appointment of former Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) director-general Happyton Bonyongwe to head the Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs ministry has sent tongues wagging among ordinary Zimbabweans and political analysts alike — with some claiming it is President Robert Mugabe’s “smart card” to guarantee his victory in next year’s eagerly-anticipated elections.

The Director-General of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) Happyton Bonyongwe (Picture by NewsDay)
The Director-General of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) Happyton Bonyongwe (Picture by NewsDay)

Bonyongwe, who until now has operated under the radar as Mugabe’s chief spy, was on Monday appointed as the country’s new Justice minister — replacing Vice  President Emmerson Mnangagwa — who has been performing the dual roles of VP and Justice guru since December 2015.

The former CIO boss holds a law degree from the University of Zimbabwe, where he also won a Book Prize as the co-best student in his stream.

During his swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday, Bonyongwe said he was relishing the opportunity of serving in his new post.

“It is my hope that I will be able to make some positive contributions to my country. That is something that has always motivated me. I view it as a deployment by my leadership and therefore, I look at it from that context and I will go there and do my best,” he said.

But with the 2018 elections looming large — amid growing infighting and divisions in the ruling Zanu PF — analysts said yesterday that Mugabe’s choice of Bonyongwe to head the ministry was telling.

“He is an able legal mind and the hope will be that he will put it to good and productive use during his tenure.

“A former soldier and spy chief in charge of justice seems ominous, not just for Mugabe’s internal rivals, but also for the broader opposition movement. It (Justice ministry) is the political authority in charge of elections and will therefore have a huge influence upon Zec (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission),” said constitutional law expert Alex Magaisa on his blog.

“It represents yet another influential hand of the security structure in elections. And who knows, he could be a dark horse in the (Zanu PF) succession race and his transfer to the political arena should be carefully watched.

“Of the current generals, he is the one who boasted a more superior intellect although he was less known and is more discreet by virtue of his role in the spy agency,” he added.

Political analyst McDonald Lewanika said Bonyongwe’s appointment to the Justice ministry was not just unexpected, but could also be viewed from many other perspectives.

“Although a qualified and purported brilliant legal mind, his appointment ahead of elections suggests a takeover of the legal and electoral apparatus by the intelligence community.

“Speculation has been rife in the past that the CIO has deployed its members to occupy key positions in the Zec secretariat, and thus Bonyongwe’s ascension could ensure effective and close control of this critical body ahead of elections,” Lewanika told the Daily News.

“Although Bonyongwe is a retired general, this move also appears to be aimed at checking not just the Lacoste faction, but also the current military establishment which has been unequivocal in its support of the man that Bonyongwe replaces, VP Mnangagwa, whom Bonyongwe has never appeared to prefer as a principal.

“In any case, Bonyongwe’s deployment does not portend any reform within the security sector, but rather entrenches the security establishment’s hold over key civilian processes and the State,” he added.

Mugabe has previously hinted at his plan to retire security chiefs whom he has openly accused of meddling in Zanu PF’s internal power wrangles.

In July, he told Zanu PF supporters in his home province of Mashonaland West in Chinhoyi that “politics led the gun”, suggesting that the military and other security organs were positioning their preferred candidate to succeed him — warning in the process that he could be forced to retire some security commanders.

While the security establishment is deeply loyal to Mugabe, whom they see as a steadying hand in power — amid intense jockeying over his succession at both State and party level — top commanders have also been said to be backing Mnangagwa to succeed the nonagenarian.

At the recent Chinhoyi youth interface rally, the 93-year-old also appeared to give his biggest hint yet that he planned to neutralise security chiefs by awarding them top government posts.

“We give immense respect to our defence forces. Most of those in leadership are persons we were with outside the country and we continue to respect them as revolutionaries.

“Yes, they will retire and we must find room for them in government so they don’t languish . . . so they continue the struggle now . . . political struggle together with all of us in the leadership of the country, and this is what we expect to happen,” Mugabe said then.

Piers Pigou, a senior consultant with the International Crisis Group, said Bonyongwe’s appointment appeared to be Mugabe’s plan to contain Mnangagwa — more than promoting government efficiency.

“Bonyongwe is now in charge of Justice and of government business in Parliament — areas where he is something of a novice and will require significant guidance.

“And of course, we can see this is also part of the general push-back and containment of VP Mnangagwa.

“Taken together, this seems to be more about internal power politics within the ruling party than the promotion of good and efficient governance,” Pigou said.

Zanu PF is deeply-divided over Mugabe’s succession.

A faction of young Turks going by the moniker Generation 40 (G40), which has been locked in a vicious battle with Mnangagwa’s backers, Team Lacoste, has renewed its resolve to finish off the Midlands godfather who on Monday lost significant control of key institutions when Mugabe demoted and fired ministers perceived to be loyal to him.

Relations have worsened between G40 and Team Lacoste since Mnangagwa was airlifted to South Africa after falling sick at a Zanu PF rally in Gwanda two months ago, amid claims that he had been poisoned by his rivals in the brawling party.

Meanwhile, Mugabe has consistently batted away calls to name a successor — insisting that it is against the Zanu PF constitution which demands its members to call for an extra-ordinary congress to choose a new leader if circumstances call for such a move. Daily News

  • Smart card kkkkk

  • Ngawaite hanti nyika ndeyekwazvimba here, ko min we facebook varipi

  • kkkkkk arikuti rongera

  • that’s a smart red card,intems of rigging elections Ed he knows the game.This chep is paying a price of refusing to participate in Ed poisoning that’s why the elimination failed.Someone is very angry(She)that she could be the VP as we speak, he is going to be a Minister for 5months after voting next year elections new cabinet announced and he is history.Remember early this year Jonathan Moyo confirmed that Itayi Dzamara was captured by state security.,and Bonyongwe was a ClO boss that time then Jonso will finish him like what he is trying to do to Ed

  • Want to infest the Justice department with spy agents. We thought the country had already gone to the dogs but now we no longer know what to say

  • There is no need for Zimbabweans to go to the elections.

    • Don’t lie to people because of what you think might happen. Let people remain resolute and register to vote. Imagine if 2 million people have the same mindset you have.

      • Ak

        What you are saying is nonsense. Elections in Zimbabwe’s don’t matter because zec is controlled by zanu(please get that in your head). Zec already printed the election results a long time ago and zanu won already. If zec was independent zanu would be history.

    • Luke Banda the Zimbabwean situation will never change. only God intetvention can help. Rememver this is the only country who can count the ballots for months. political wise all Zimbabweans have no choice but to bow down to the Zimbabwean Kim jong Mugabe n thts a fact. You knw that. For hw long have yo been going thrugh this path? Stop pretending and face reality of the situation. Tsvangison is finished healthy wise. The crocodile also left with two bars. Mugabe regime have mastered the law of divide and rule. unless you are a supporter of G-40 ? look at this man.

      • Ak

        This is very true even if Zimbabweans hate it. It’s better to be realistic than being optimistic for nothing

    • Zhou Zhou how do you expect God to intervene without you doing your part? Don’t be passive. You’re failing to believe that the same God will intervene when you vote seriously? Nothing will change unless you do something and in this case one has to vote.
      When we come out in numbers the truth shall be known and it is then when God will intervene when we do something. The dumpiest thing you can ever do is to sit, do nothing and say, ” will wait for God”

    • I see u dnt knw Zimbabwe. Thanks.

    • U ryt Banda. We will never get tired. We won’t resign to our fate. Change will definitely come. With or without reforms.

    • U ryt Banda. We will never get tired. We won’t resign to our fate. Change will definitely come. With or without reforms.

    • U ryt Banda. We will never get tired. We won’t resign to our fate. Change will definitely come. With or without reforms.

  • People working under this ministry will surely be submissive – fear factor strategy.

  • Exactly a stooge crickey you guys need to get off your asses and fight this shyte.

  • We must be scared of this bonyora guy who headed the dreaded cio

    • Kkkkkkkk mavakuto murima welcome to the real world boss Bonyo(ra)ngwe

  • Ummm

    I will go there and do my best , go where ?

  • Rwendo

    In 2012, before the 2013 elections, there was a media story reported of pressure, from some in the military establishment, for Ret Brig Bonyongwe to be removed – on the allegations of being linked to Makoni and the Gen Mujuru/Bhora musango initiative of 2008.

    He survived. But another election looms and this time he’s gone, ‘kicked upstairs.’ One has to also wonder if and how this is linked to fall out from the Thallium poisoning story reported in the media. And, finally, who is to replace him; an insider or someone from outside the organization?

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