Chiwenga, a general who always wanted to be a politician


 8.  (C) Chingono said that the most senior ranks of the ZDF are so entwined with the ZANU-PF party as to be practically  indistinguishable.  This is particularly frustrating for  those officers who would like to focus on developing a  professional military force that can be an effective national  army, and can at the same time play a constructive role in the southern African region.  This situation has been exacerbated since the ZDF came under the leadership of  General Constantine Chiwenga, a man with little practical military experience (he was a political commissar before 1980), who has clear political ambitions.  Chingono said that once Chiwenga called a meeting of senior officers that started at 10:00 in the morning and went on until 9:30 pm, which discussed economics and politics, but not once did a military issue come up.  He said that near the end of the meeting, as he consulted his notes, he turned to a colleague next to him and asked, "Why have we not discussed how to teach soldiers to shoot straight, how to better feed and clothe them?"  This was, he said, a purely rhetorical question, as, given a choice between a military and a political issue, Chiwenga will always chose the political because he doesn't know enough about the military to be comfortable discussing it.  Satuku, who works directly for Chiwenga at the Defense Ministry, said that he is hardworking, coming to his office at 7:30 am and staying until 10:00 at night, but he spends his time on political issues.


9.  (C) Both officers stressed Chiwenga's political ambitions repeatedly.  Chingono said, "He will be very disappointed if he does not get a political position when his tenure as defense chief ends."  His politics, however, could very well be his undoing.  His frequent political statements have upset and worried some ZANU-PF politicians, and about five months ago Mugabe reportedly called him and chastised him for it. (COMMENT:  This comes as no big surprise.  People who do not hesitate to use the military to enforce and buttress their  hold on power have to be concerned that a member of that very same military might one day use it against them.  What is surprising is that Mugabe himself took a hand in the matter. This seems to counter rumors we've heard that he is under the control of the military.  END COMMENT.)


10.  (C) In response to a question about factions within the military, Chingono said that he would take issue with the view because factions implies that there is leadership around which they can coalesce.  What there are, he said, are different attitudes and opinions.  There are those who fully support ZANU-PF, have no compunction about engaging in violence when the party orders it, and who are intensely political.  Others recognize that the military has been used improperly, and in some instances, illegally, and would like to get back to the business of developing a professional military.  They worry about morale, discipline, and training of the troops.  Still others are fence sitters — they could be professional military or thugs — waiting to see who comes out on top, and will cast their lot with the winning side just to survive.  With the exception of those who are loyal ZANU-PF tools, no one dares publicly air their views.  The consequences of such rashness could be fatal. (COMMENT:  The Pomona Barracks weapons theft, when several soldiers, including at least one officer who fought in the liberation war, were tortured and several died, demonstrates how the  hardliners treat those on the "out."  END COMMENT.)  Chingono said that on the issue of sanctions, the key people on the list probably don't really care, as they have other avenues of funding.  Hurt by them, though, are other officers who are not on the list.  He spoke of one brigadier general who was in Kenya for training who was unable to get his salary remitted through the banking system because of sanctions. While they would like to see them lifted, they are realistic enough to know this won't happen in the short term.  The fence sitters, however, could be swayed by some flexibility in sanctions relating to state-owned enterprises, as this would show that there is hope.

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The Insider

The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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