OVER 30 generals from the Zimbabwe Defence Forces packed the fortified KGIV army barracks in Harare as their boss issued a rare rebuke to President Robert Mugabe, leaving the country on the cusp of a coup.
In a chilling warning to Mugabe and his lieutenants in the ruling Zanu PF party, Chiwenga warned the military could be forced to step-in and restore order.
Led by Defence Forces Commander General Constantino Chiwenga, Army chief Philip Valerio Sibanda, Airforce Acting boss Shebba Shumbayaonda, and defence head of administration Douglas Nyikayaramba among others, the military top brass demanded a stop to the power struggles in Zanu PF.
It was a gathering of the who is who of the military and could signal a turning point in the history of Zimbabwe and the role of the military in national politics.
Mugabe, in the last few years, has uncharacteristically lashed out at the military for meddling in the political mudslinging in Zanu PF and especially the succession issue while his wife Grace has consistently accused army generals of ulterior motives.
Grace’s sidekick and G40 kingpin Jonathan Moyo, the higher education minister, has also been engaged in public spats with Chiwenga and other generals but Monday appeared to herald a new era.
While Mugabe has insisted the wartime maxim of “politics lead the gun” would be the compass that should provide the military with direction Chiwenga argued: “It is pertinent to restate that the Zimbabwe Defence Forces remain the major stockholder in respect to the gains of the liberation struggle and when these are threatened we are obliged to take corrective measures”.
Moyo has in the past clashed with Chiwenga over the use of this phrase ‘major stockholder’ arguing “only the people are the stockholders”.
Chiwenga, in belligerent style demanded that “counter revolutionaries” – a euphemism for Moyo and his G40 acolytes – be expelled from Zanu PF.
The choice of KGIV was also poignant for an unprecedented statement that can only be rivalled by late General Vitalis Zvinavashe’s infamous “straight jacket’ statement issued on the eve of the 2002 presidential election and credited with tipping the scales in Mugabe’s favour against a popular opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
KGIV is the most fortified and biggest military barracks in the country and, save for the absence of generals from the Central Intelligence Organisation, Police and Correctional Services, Chiwenga had his ducks in a row and literally threw the gauntlet at Mugabe from the comfort of his citadel of power.
Chiwenga also instructively pointed out that unnamed people wanted to divide the country’s security forces, warning “we take great exception to this”.
Now, with the army having thrown its lot with exiled Mnangagwa along with veterans of the liberation struggle under the umbrella of the Zimbabwe National War Veterans Association, the police top brass, led by General Augustine Chihuri has been seen to side with Grace’s G40 faction while the intelligence has always been divided.
New Justice minister Happyton Bonyongwe was reportedly a former Vice President Joice Mujuru acolyte but was spared the guillotine in 2014 while the Correctional Services under Paradzai Zimondi has become almost irrelevant to the country’s establishment.