PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has taken a huge political risk by sidelining the military — which has kept Zanu PF in power directly since 2000 — from his dicey intelligency-driven presidential election campaign, state security sources say.
Mnangagwa is now working with the dreaded state security agency, Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO)’s shadowy political dark arts structure Forever Associates Zimbabwe (Faz), it has been shown mainly by The NewsHawks. He previously oversaw the CIO as State Security minister in the 1980s and that hardened him as a ruthless securocrat who likes operating in the shadows.
Faz — which is running an intelligence operation on elections — is aggressively playing an instrumental role spearheading Mnangagwa’s campaign after the army, which brought him to power through the November 2017 coup that ousted the late former president Robert Mugabe, was muscled out amid betrayal and acrimony.
Sources say since the CIO has replaced the military in presiding over the electoral process and elections, if Mnangagwa wins the army will effectively be pushed back to the barracks. This risks an escalation of tensions within the security institutions, and intelligence sources warn that this may explode into a political crisis.
This comes, the sources add, against the background of Mnangagwa’s active agenda behind-the-scenes move to remove the military from civilian government affairs to disentangle himself from its shackles and secure firmer control of the levers of state power.
Mnangagwa has been wrestling his deputy Constantino Chiwenga, who executed the coup, over the levers of state power and political supremacy. This has created a delicate and dangerous political brinkmanship with a military dimension.
Initially, the balance of forces favoured Chiwenga, but as he consolidated power, Mnangagwa launched a daring wave of purges of top army commanders who led the putsch, posting some of them outside as ambassadors and side-lining some. The commanders were Chiwenga’s allies.
Political analysts say his ruthless purges, which also engulfed the CIO and police, were helped by the role of contingency in politics, particularly death.
Amid political brinkmanship with Chiwenga which followed the coup, Mnangagwa purged army commanders who brought him to power. Some died mysteriously.
Chiwenga almost died in mysterious circumstances as well and was only rescued by the Chinese.
The incident led to his divorce with former wife Marry Mubaiwa and a chain of tragic events, including her amputation of the arm and proscription from seeing her children.
Intelligence sources say by pushing back against the army, Mnangagwa is not demilitarising state institutions and politics — which could be politically fatally for him and collapse his government — but manoeuvring the army back to the barracks to retain tighter control.
For Mnangagwa this became an imperative and survival tactic, especially after January 2019 when Chiwenga almost declared a state of emergency while the President was travelling in Russia and other eastern European countries.
This is contained in Mnangagwa’s biography written by his adviser Eddie Cross.
The book, A Life of Sacrifice; Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, falls short of accusing Chiwenga of plotting to stage another coup in 2019 when the nation plunged into days of political uncertainty and fear, with the political environment pregnɑnt with military manoeuvres and teetering on the brink of another coup.
The militarisation of state institutions in Zimbabwe now extends well beyond just state-security agencies to other key institutions, including the judiciary, state-owned media, and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, which runs elections.
Just as certain state institutions have become militarised, so has the ruling Zanu PF been conflated with the state.
In the aftermath of the coup, the military became the arbiter and kingmaker, again continuing to negate the electoral processes while observing minimally constitutional and normative provisions for purposes of retaining sub-regional, Southern African Development Community, and African Union continental as well as multilateral support, including at the United Nations.
Sources say Mnangagwa’s actions are not meant to address the nɑked politicisation of the military amid the militarisation of Zimbabwean politics, which dates to the days of the liberation struggle, but to checkmate Chiwenga and retain power.
“Mnangagwa wants the army back to the barracks to protect himself and coup-proof his vulnerable government,” one source said.
“The issue is serious because, for instance, soldiers are no longer allowed to walk around in military garb or use public transport. They have to operate within the confines of military strictures.”
An internal secret intelligence assessment by CIO, on which The NewsHawks was briefed, shows Mnangagwa has moved to sideline the army in the elections for three main reasons.
It is a huge risk which may pay a political dividend for him, but trigger the military to fight back.
Firstly, Mnangagwa is pushing back against the army which is still heavily influenced by Chiwenga and is suspected of planning a 2008-like “bhora musango” (sabotage) campaign which led to Mugabe’s sh0ck defeat by the late founding opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the first round of polling.
Secondly, he is trying to disentangle and wean himself off the army, which brought him to power through the coup, to secure his own mandate through Faz.
Sources say Mnangagwa is fed up with Chiwenga and the army’s “we put you there” mantra used to blackmail and control him.
Thirdly, having dismantled the coup coalition which brought him to power, the President wants to push the army back to the barracks and remove them from the political fray.
The intelligence briefing sheds light and insight on the matter which will persist well beyond the elections, perhaps deciding Mnangagwa’s fate even after he has won.
Since the creation of the Zimbabwean state in April 1980, the security establishment has evolved into a highly politicised institution in support of the ruling party and executive, ultimately serving as the alternative to electoral legitimacy, placing them at odds with the citizenry.
The executive-military relations in Zimbabwe are also anchored on patronage politics.
The army’s reach now extends to mining, media, the health sector and even the electoral commission, despite the constitution being against its involvement in politics, and Mnangagwa wants to cut those tentacles to retain control.