A roots-and-branch shake-up is in the offing in the security sector as President Emmerson Mnangagwa moves to fill in the vacancies occasioned by the elevation of top service chiefs before and after the dramatic exit of his predecessor, Robert Mugabe.
In the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF), the surprise promotion of Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ) boss, Air Marshal Perrance Shiri and that of Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) Major General Sibusiso Moyo into Mnangagwa’s Cabinet has created voids in the command structure of the uniformed forces that cannot go for long without being filled.
Born Bigboy Samson Chikerema, Shiri is the new minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement, while Moyo, who was ZDF’s spokesperson during its intervention in the ruling party’s internal affairs, is now the country’s top diplomat — as minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
By virtue of their Cabinet appointments, Shiri and Moyo automatically relinquished their positions in the security service.
Section 106(2) of the Constitution does not allow vice presidents, ministers and deputy ministers to directly or indirectly hold any other public office or undertake in any paid work during their tenure of office.
In the secret service, the office of director-general (DG) of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) has been vacant since October when Happyton Bonyongwe was appointed Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs minister by Mugabe.
Bonyongwe became one of the shortest lived Cabinet ministers after he was replaced by Zvimba West legislator, Ziyambi Ziyambi, a month into the job.
Currently, the deputy director-general of CIO, Aaron Nhepera, is the acting DG.
Nhepera is tipped to take over the position, although several other names have been put forward, including that of top military man, Trust Mugoba.
In the event that Mnangagwa settles for Mugoba, he will have to recall Mugoba from the position of defence attaché to the African Union where Mugabe had posted him.
Before the fall of Mugabe last month, presidential spokesperson George Charamba had told the Daily News that the position of CIO DG was “so critical that it would not take too long before a substantive appointment was made”.
Sources close to the presidency told the Daily News this week that Mnangagwa — who is familiar with the security sector having been the Defence and Security minister at varying intervals — could take advantage of the voids in the CIO and ZDF to institute a roots-and-branch shake-up in order to put trusted lieutenants in strategic positions.
He is seen elevating ZDF Commander Constantino Chiwenga into the presidium as one of his two deputies as part of the succession in Zanu PF, and to allow himself to ring changes in the army.
Chiwenga declined to entertain questions after being contacted for comment.
“I can’t answer you on that, I don’t know,” he said before appearing to terminate the line.
Chiwenga played a stellar role during Mnangagwa’s ascendancy to the top office after masterminding what has become known as Operation Restore Legacy, which triggered Mugabe’s downfall after 37 years in power.
He was attested to the ZNA in 1981 as a brigadier commanding First Brigade in Bulawayo.
Chiwenga was later promoted to the rank of major general and reverted to his original name of Constantine Chiwenga.
On the formation of the ZDF in 1994, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general and was appointed commander of the ZNA thereafter.
Upon the retirement of General Vitalis Zvinavashe in 2004, he was promoted to the rank of commander of the ZDF.
He is the chairperson of the Joint Operations Command (Joc), comprising ZNA, Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services, CIO, ZRP and AFZ.
In the event that Chiwenga is appointed vice president at the forthcoming Zanu PF extraordinary congress in Harare, he could be replaced by ZNA commander, Phillip Vallerio Sibanda, which ultimately means there would be need for further adjustments.
Zanu PF holds its special congress next week during which Mnangagwa will be obligated by the party’s constitution to handpick his top team comprising his two deputies, members of the politburo and members of the central committee.
Sibanda’s promotion would open the race for the top ZNA job between Brigadier General Anselem Sanyatwe, the commander of the Presidential Guard, and Brigadier General Douglas Nyikayaramba, the chief of staff, administration at the ZNA.
To complete the changes within ZDF top hierarchy, Air Vice Marshal Elson Moyo is tipped to replace Shiri.
The manner in which Operation Restore Legacy was executed showed the deep-seated mistrust between the military, which masterminded Mnangagwa’s ascendancy and the other arms of the security services namely the CIO and the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP).
Sources said even though Mnangagwa has pronounced himself on the need to let bygones be bygones, he can only begin to have confidence in the CIO and ZRP once they have been placed in trusted hands.
They said the detention and confinement of some of the officials in the top hierarchy of the secret services has created animosity between them and the leaders of the military operation, which creates a huge risk for Mnangagwa if he is to retain them in their positions.
Instead of taking the risk, Mnangagwa has been advised to either retire Mugabe’s allies in the security services or buy their remaining years in service.
ZRP commissioner-general Augustine Chihuri is among the top securocrats facing an uncertain future.
Chihuri got a rude awakening when he stood to take oath of office during Mnangagwa’s inauguration after he was booed and called off the stage by a 60 000-capacity crowd at the giant National Sports Stadium in Harare.
There have been widespread calls for Chihuri to resign.
Chihuri has been in his position for more than 23 years, having been rewarded with a contract renewal over 13 times since 1997.
He took over the reigns as acting commissioner in 1991, replacing Henry Mukurazhizha.
Two years later, he eventually became substantive police commissioner in 1993.
In 2008, he was appointed to commissioner-general when the post was created to replace that of commissioner.
His term was extended by four years.
Before independence, he was a member of the Zimbabwe People’s Army which was an attempt at unifying the two major military outfit — Zanla and Zipra.
Chihuri was reportedly imprisoned along with other Zipra leaders after a meeting convened by Samora Machel where Mugabe was present during the war for Zimbabwe’s independence.
His name during the second Chimurenga was “Cde Chocha”.
Also likely to be affected is ZRP deputy commissioner-general Innocent Matibiri who is a close relation to the ousted Mugabe.