4. (C) The Commander of the Defense Forces, General Constantine Chiwenga, is a political general who works hard, but who has very little practical military experience or expertise. A political commissar before 1980, he has only attended one mid-level training course, which he did not complete. If given a choice between a military and a political issue, he routinely defaults to the political. His goal is to be in politics when his tenure ends as defense chief, and he will be very disappointed if he fails to achieve that goal. He has been given to making political statements. This has caused some ZANU-PF politicians to be suspicious of him, and he was chastised by Mugabe for being too "political."
5. (C) Military officers at the one- and two-star level have felt the impact of sanctions, and would like to see them lifted, although they understand the reason they exist. Those who are currently undecided could be convinced to move into the reform camp if they saw any signs of flexibility in the sanctions regime. Military personnel valued their former relationship with the U.S. and would like to see it resumed. Many acknowledge that the military's role in the violence of 2008 and previously was a misuse of the military and hope such never happens again. The key, they believe, is continued economic stability and a better resource flow for the military.
6. (C) Those military personnel who are older with more experience tend to view difficulties in life more realistically than the younger generation. Life teaches us realistically than the younger generation. Life teaches us to expect a certain amount of difficulty and conflict. The situation in Zimbabwe with the current coalition government is no different. To think that there would be little or no conflict in such a government is naive. That said, both sides in the current lash-up must work out their differences; they owe it to the people who elected them. In this regard, the media is often unhelpful. Reports that emphasize extreme points of view should be read with suspicion and skepticism. Relations within government are hardly ever smooth, and conversely, reports that predict the demise of one side or another are often meant only to enflame, not inform. For example, we have experienced a situation when two opposing politicians go into a private meeting and interact civilly, getting along relatively well. Then, at the end of the meeting, as soon as a microphone is put in front of them, all hell breaks loose.
A VIEW FROM THE TRENCHES
7. (C) Ambassador and DATT met privately on January 5 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. In the current environment, they risk being charged with treason for an unsanctioned meeting with U.S. officials, and that could have fatal consequences. Chingono, an artillery officer, was the last ZNA officer to train under the IMET program, graduating from NDU in 1999, while Satuku received training in England. Both participated in the fight for independence as teenagers and received commissions for that participation. Unlike some of the senior military who came out of the struggle, however, they sought to develop professional military credentials.
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