WikiLeaks: Zimbabwe Army Generals face court martial
By Dumisani Muleya and Faith Zaba
The Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) is investigating the two senior army commanders who strongly criticised their boss General Constantine Chiwenga, describing him as a “political general” with “little practical military experience or expertise”. The remarks were made at secret meetings with top United States diplomats whom President Robert Mugabe considers enemies of the state.
Revelations of military manoeuvres to probe Major-General Fidelis Satuku and Brigadier-General Herbert Chingono for clandestinely sniping at their chief and possibly court-martial them afterwards on treason charges could trigger an avalanche of punitive measures against senior Zanu PF officials who also met US envoys to discuss Mugabe’s succession and future.
This comes as latest information shows senior Joint Operations Command (JOC) members are angry and pressing Mugabe to act against top Zanu PF and government officials, as well as military commanders implicated in clandestine meetings with US diplomats to discuss sensitive political and security issues. JOC brings together the army, police and intelligence chiefs.
Army spokesperson Colonel Overson Mugwizi confirmed to the Zimbabwe Independent this week the two army commanders, still reporting for duty, were under investigation. After the investigations, if the two generals are found to have any case to answer, they could be court-martialled and could face imprisonment if convicted, or even a death sentence, although that is unlikely.
A court-martial is empowered to determine the guilt of members of the armed forces using martial law, and, if the defendant is found guilty, to decide upon punishment. Mugwizi said in serious disciplinary cases like this, the military thoroughly investigates the matter before deciding on what course of action to take.
“WikiLeaks is a new phenomenon. But in internal matters to do with discipline, we investigate and then take appropriate action,” he said. “Where there is need for public consumption of the findings, we make our findings public. In this case we are likely to do that.” Asked if Chingono and Satuku would be court-martialled, Mugwizi said it would depend on the outcome of investigations.
“This is done on a case by case basis. Normally as the military we don’t take time investigating. We will be advised by the outcome,” he pointed out. “Court-martialling depends on the nature of the offence. Investigations will determine the next plan of action. They are (the generals) at work – remember you are innocent until proven guilty.”
According to the Defence Forces Act, if found with cases to answer, the two commanders would have to be arrested before being court-martialled within eight days.
Intelligence sources say Chiwenga and CIO Director-General Happyton Bonyongwe are “gravely concerned” about the situation and want decisive measures taken to deal with senior Zanu PF and government officials, in addition to military or intelligence officers, who might have compromised national security through certain disclosures to US envoys.
Information gathered this week from military and intelligence sources further indicate JOC bosses worried US and other foreign diplomats and their agents could have penetrated and compromised the system. American diplomats have particularly been running rings around the system as shown by releases of US secret cables by WikiLeaks.
The Americans infiltrated the system all the way up to the level of the vice-president’s office and top ZDF echelons. Current US ambassador Charles Ray even managed to secretively meet Vice-President Joice Mujuru in December 2009 when she was acting president.
Ray met also Mugabe on Tuesday to exchange notes of “partnership and cooperation” issues. Although the cables scandal was not discussed, diplomatic sources said the veteran US envoy wanted to “gauge Mugabe’s mood” and “put out feelers” about the current situation at the highest level.
JOC chiefs also feared the security establishment could have been infiltrated by foreign diplomats, operatives and their moles.
“JOC bosses, mainly Chiwenga and Bonyongwe, are alarmed by the situation. They want measures taken to rectify the situation,” a senior intelligence officer said. “Their worry is that if this is not dealt with it will leave the whole system compromised and could undermine national security.”
However, high-level official sources say Mugabe is in a “state of paralysis” and does not know what to do. This was confirmed by his failure to tackle the issue at the Zanu PF politburo meeting on Wednesday.
Satuku and Chingono were quoted in leaked diplomatic cables dispatched in January last year by Ray saying ZDF commander Chiwenga was a “political general” with “little practical military experience or expertise”.
According to a secret cable by Ray, Satuku and Chingono took “grave personal risk” to attend the private meetings. According to the cable, the two generals took time to explain to Ray the situation and dynamics in the military. They spoke about Chiwenga’s political ambitions, different views and opinions within the army, conditions of service, sanctions and politics.
“Ambassador met privately on January 5 (2010) with Brigadier General Herbert Chingono, Inspector General for the ZNA, and on January 6 with Major General Fidelis Satuku, Director General for Policy and Personnel, ZDF. These two serving military officers took a grave personal risk meeting with us, and their identities should be strictly protected,” Ray said.
“In the current environment, they risk being charged with treason for an unsanctioned meeting with US officials, and that could have fatal consequences.” As a result, the cables by Ray marked around the names of Satuku and Chingono “strictly protect”.
Ray said if their identities were revealed that could lead to “treason” charges because only those generals aligned to Mugabe and Zanu PF were allowed to dabble in politics. “Except for those who are fully in bed with Zanu PF, people keep their views private to avoid being accused of treason, which can have fatal consequences,” he said.
Chingono, an artillery officer, was the last Zimbabwe National Army commander to train at the United States National Defence University under the International Military Education and Training programme, while Satuku received his military training in Britain. Zimbabwe Independent