Inside the Zimbabwe National Army - Entrenching Zanu PF Partisanship

Inside the Zimbabwe National Army - Entrenching Zanu PF Partisanship

At the end of this month, the term of office for the commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, General Constantine Chiwenga, will come to an end. There is raging debate already that Chiwenga and the police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri's contract which is also expiring monthend, should not be renewed. But rather that the two generals, widely viewed as highly partisan, should be replaced by professional, independent and non-partisan leaders from within the ranks of the military and the police force.

Indications are that president Mugabe and his Zanu Pf party are likely to disregard the Global Political Agreement (GPA) provisions requiring all apointments to senior government positions to be done after consultation and with the consent of the prime minister leading the Movement for Democratic Change. Information below sent to the Zimbabwe Briefing anonymously from a source within the military provides a glimpse into the operations of the military and profers reasons why it will be a significant challenge to uproot partisanship within the higher ranks of the military. The following is the brief account from the anonymous Colonel:

The leadership of the Zimbabwe National Army is very political, and is totally aligned to Zanu PF as it is drawn largely from the Zimbabwe African Nationalist Liberation Army (ZANLA), Zanu PF's military wing before independence in 1980. At independence the two liberation fronts - ZANLA and the ZAPU-aligned ZIPRA were united together with the Rhodesian Front military force under the leadership of ZANLA's General Solomon Mujuru (the late) who became the first black commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF). From the beginning it was clear that the military leadership worked closely with Zanu PF, the political party, and that mistake of extreme partisanship at the top has persisted to this day.

After a short spell in leadership, General Mujuru turned to focus on his vast business empire that had been largely facilitated by his political connections and handed over leadership to General Vitalis Zvinavashe (the late) who was even more partisan and who never brought any major changes to the ZDF other than misery and untold suffering to the serving members. Then after him came General Constantine Chiwenga, the current commander who was allegedly privately described by his juniors as a shallow political general in the wiki-leaks cables. Chiwenga is a veteran of the liberation struggle who served as a ZANLA combatant, and a businessman who was recently 'came out' as the best student in a university of Zimbabwe masters degree program in International Relations - a move widely interpreted to mean final preparations for a career in civilian politics.

Chiwenga, together with Colonel Mzilikazi, former director of military intelligence and now Deputy Commander of the 5th Brigade, are infamous for moving across the country from camp to camp conducting 'military civic education,' a disguised program whose actual purpose is to intimidate soldiers into supporting Zanu PF and to brainwash them with propaganda and Zanu PF policies. At many of these military civic education programs Chiwenga openly declares his support for president Mugabe and says he expects nothing but the same from all "his" soldiers.

In order to further entrench Zanu PF support within the military, the Zimbabwe National Army has in recent years adopted a policy of recruiting sons and daughters of former and serving members whose loyalty to Zanu PF cannot be questioned. The recruiting Officers have been given strong instructions not to recruit anyone whose loyalty is questionable and whose family history cannot be traced back to Zanu PF. This has resulted in many, unqualified new recruits coming from rural areas because that is where the Army leadership thinks Zanu PF enjoys a lot of support.

In the last five years very few holders of at least five ordinary level subjects qualification made it into the national army's list of recruits as most of them where chosen for being semi-literate but zealous, blind supporters of Zanu PF and graduates of the Zanu PF-leaning national youth service course. The Zimbabwe National Army, The Air Force of Zimbabwe, the Police and the Zimbabwe Prison Services have all also been of late given first preference to those who would have undergone the National Youth Service.

Once one has been recruited into the army, promotion is supposed to be on merit and in accordance to how many career courses one has successfully completed in order to prepare him or her for the next post. For instance for one to be promoted from a private to a lance Corporal he or she ought to have done the basic cadre course and any other relevant course that will be in line with the nature of the duties he/she is to assume. More so the promotion of these junior ranks is at the discretion of the Officer Commanding (mostly a major) on the recommendations of the Platoon commander (mostly a Lieutenant). However, this procedure has been abandoned in recent years in favour of promoting soldiers who are related to senior ranking army officers. Corruption has since taken its toll. Promotion is now largely based on who are you and who are you related to and more importantly on what contribution you have played to ensure that Zanu PF stays in power.

Inside the Zimbabwe National Army - Entrenching Zanu PF Partisanship

President Robert Mugabe, who is also the Commander-In-Chief of the defence forces, is personally responsible for the promotion of all commissioned officers. It appears promotion at these levels is also no longer on merit, but on the basis of who can serve Mugabe and his party diligently and blindly. The lowest rank in the commissioned officers is a Second Lieutenant, followed by a Lieutenant, Captain, Major, Lieutenant Colonel, Colonel, Brigadier General, Major General, Lieutenant General and lastly General. The most influential ranks in the Zimbabwe National Army are from the rank of a Lieutenant Colonel and above. We refer to these ranks as 'political ranks' because it is president Mugabe who personally soldiers for promotion for his political ends. Promotion is no longer on merit but on political proximity to Zanu PF.

Although war veterans formed the first group of the army in 1980, most of them lacked in qualifications so they could not rise in ranks as the system at that time required one to go through military courses and pass them in order to be promoted. For more than twenty years after independence the war veterans were sidelined and forgotten on account of poor education that hindered promotion to senior ranks. After facing its first formidable challenge from the MDC in the 2000 elections, Zanu PF adopted a new practice in the army to suddenly promote to higher ranks the bulk of the war veterans (the former ZANLA combatants) who were aligned to Zanu PF. But the promotion did not apply ZIPRA war veterans aligned to ZAPU - a party effectively swallowed by Zanu PF in a dubious 1987 unity agreement - they were sidelined and were labeled sell-outs and "those who cannot be trusted to defend Zanu PF." To date only Zanu PF loyalists constitute the largest number of decision makers and decision implementers within the army.

That is why it will be difficult for the army in Zimbabwe to rebel against Mugabe and his regime. That is also why it will be easy for the army to carry out a coup de tat in the event that any party other than Zanu PF wins national elections. It is also very important to state that most of the army generals and air force commanders are all Zanu PF to the core. Below them are those very loyal to them and to ZANU PF and they are the ones who are ear-marked to run the army once their 'bosses are gone.

So, with Zanu PF pushing for early elections which are clearly unlikely, it continues to resist any reforms to realign the political leadership of military to act in a manner consistent with the dictates of a multi-party democracy system ostensibly on the grounds that the party stands to benefit most from mantaining the status quo. A sustained push for the re-alignment of the security sector, which includes the injection of fresh blood at the top, is one key guarantee for a non-violent, free and fair election.

Dewa Mavhinga, Regional Coordinator, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition

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