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Kuda Bhejana: Chiwenga’s “Coup Deep State” where the real power lies in Zimbabwe

By Kuda Bhejana

Since the events of November 2017, the power that governs Zimbabwe has become fully apparent. There are different kinds of power at play in the Zimbabwean society and as I write, military power overrides all the others.

'Retired' General Constantine Chiwenga
‘Retired’ General Constantine Chiwenga

This military power is in the hands of none other than the coup maker, Constantino Chiwenga. Every other power is being exercised at the command of military power by the above-mentioned person. Here is a quick breakdown of the different kinds of power I am talking about.

There is political power. In Zimbabwe political power is exercised through the activities of the government; the president, the cabinet and parliament. Political power is derived from the people. It thus follows that the people have power, transmuted into political form in this case.

The main theory that premises this order is Jean Jacques Rousseau’s “On the Social Contract.” In this book Rousseau argues that it is the people who for the purposes of delegation of duties choose from amongst themselves a few of men to administer matters of the commonwealth.

This political power is created out of necessity and fulfilled by the voluntary exercise of choice by the people. The people decide who they judge as best to serve them as a political leader.

One more important topic on this is that when people choose a political leader, at least according to Rousseau, it is not an admission of their inferiority as if the people yearn to be ruled. The election of political leaders as I have pointed out is out of necessity because people are busy with other crafts.

Busy as they may be in the pursuit of their crafts, the people admit to the need to surrender collective permission to a few men who will create order, organize them and perform duties that no individual can perform by himself in the community.

Then there is military power. This kind of power is exercised by the army. There is also legal or judicial power. This power is exercised by the courts of law with the help of judges, lawyers, prosecutors and the police.

At this juncture let me make it clear that the judiciary and the military are a creation of political power. It is politicians, by the power vested in them by the people that create and administer an army to protect the people. It is also the politicians who make laws which the judiciary interprets in the administration of justice amongst all the people, themselves included.

When these three powers are bought together; the political, judicial and military – we then have what is called the “state.”

Or the “deep state” as President Trump has been grappling with here in Washington D.C. The politicians, bureaucrats, judges, military leaders, intelligence personnel, are what compose the state.

The sad reality in Zimbabwe in 2018 is that all these powers are in the hands of one man. This man, General Chiwenga is leasing these powers to his friends and his slaves to engineer events that we don’t quite understand where they will end.

When the coup happened in November 2017, most of us thought that it was a coup on Mugabe. Alas. It was a coup against the “state” of Zimbabwe. The oil that kept the “state” running was Robert Mugabe as the executive head elected by the people of Zimbabwe.

As he was rightly called, he was the “Head of State.”

We all know he rigged the elections. But that’s beside the point. He rigged yes, but the reason why he at least made an effort to rig and not just install himself by force was precisely to keep the semblance of a state in its theoretical sense – one of the people, by people, for the people.

Mugabe understood the philosophical underpinnings of government and of state and even though he floundered every other rule, he wanted to keep the state intact.  One can even go as far as to say Mugabe was a bad head of government but a good head of state.

“State” in this case means exactly what I have described above; the harmony of the political, judicial and military aspects of Zimbabwe.

Once the “Head of State” was removed by force, the state became preyed. The state was for the first time vulnerable. It could now be manipulated and compromised.

If the state could get a new head, a new “Head of State” who did not get his political power from the people, we’d be helped to know where he got that power from.

He got it from the military.

And let’s make this clear. A military that disrupts the state is a corrupted military. Am stating the obvious. The part corrupted the whole of which it is a part. That means the part was corrupted in itself. Mnangagwa rose to presidency through military force. The military force was unleashed by Chiwenga.

Mnangagwa was just but a fugitive in November last year.

Am sure you will remember how Mnangagwa was publicly derided by both Mugabe and his wife. All he did was to clap his hands with his heart racing under his chest throughout those youth interface rallies.

After he was fired, Mnangagwa fled to South Africa. He does admit that he fled because he was warned that he would be killed if he stayed.

When Chiwenga executed the coup-de-tat, a “thorough coup” to borrow Mugabe’s comments, all other arms of the state were militarized. Political power was  militarized. And so was judicial power. Economic power was also militarized. That’s why you have army generals shouting that “Zimbabwe is Open for Business.” What an abomination!

See, it’s easy to think that Mnangagwa is powerful. The truth is that he is not powerful at all. I want to take you back to November last year when he was fired by President Robert Mugabe at the instigation of then first lady, Grace Mugabe.

The owner of all the power in Zimbabwe right now is Retired General Constantino Chiwenga. Mnangagwa is his puppet.

This matrix is where all our eyes should be; the Mnangagwa – Chiwenga matrix. I say this because now Mnangagwa feels like he is a executive president in the political sense – elected by the people. But Chiwenga is not only entitled to Mnangagwa’s success. He is a foe at the same time. Chiwenga wields military power and a warped understanding of the “state.”

In other words, we have a “coup state” engineered and owned by Chiwenga. And Mnangagwa is now the head of Chiwenga’s “coup state.”

Chamisa was supposed to be the one grappled with this dangerous assignment. With the full backing of the people. But since Mnangagwa rigged elections, on the one hand the people are his enemies. On the other, he is trapped inside Chiwenga’s web.

Let’s pray for him.


What shall we do is the question that follows now.

The people should claim back all their power from Chiwenga’s hands. The social contract has to be torn apart and rewritten. We established that all power derives from the people.

Even the agreement to use voting to elect leaders comes from the people. The same people can put in place another means of electing leaders if voting no longer achieves its originally intended result.

If the tree starts to grow without its roots as Zimbabwe’s “state” is doing now, the tree has to be cut down with everything in it before it falls, destroying everything beneath it.

Kuda Bhejana is a media entrepreneur and political analyst based in Washington DC. Follow him on Twitter @realbhejana