China reportedly wants the country’s military chiefs to run and head a new interim Zimbabwe government between 2020-2023 when fresh presidential and parliamentary elections are due, in a typical stratocracy fashion, in the aftermath of an imminent ouster of President Emmerson Mnangagwa from office, Spotlight Zimbabwe, can exclusively reveal.
A stratocracy is a form of military government in which civil and military service are difficult to distinguish, where the state and the military are traditionally or constitutionally the same entity, and that government positions are always occupied by commissioned officers and military leaders.
This publication revealed in a special report three months ago, that an elite delegation of senior Zimbabwe military officials reportedly told Chinese generals that Mnangagwa’s political reign will expire in 2020, and that he was going to be a caretaker president up to the period, before the army replaces him with their successor of choice, a few days prior to former leader, President Robert Mugabe’s November 2017 coup.
A Zimbabwean military attache stationed in Beijing at the time when former Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) Commander and now Vice President, Rtd General Constantino Chiwenga, visited China between November 8 to November 10 2017, shortly before Mugabe was toppled from office, told Spotlight Zimbabwe, that the military delegation comprising officials from the army and air force travelling with Chiwenga told their Chinese counterparts that Mnangagwa would be in power “for no more than three years” as a “stopgap measure” to stabilise the country.
While in China then, the VP met with General Li Zuocheng, a member of China’s Central Military Commission, which is the highest decision-making body for China’s armed forces, together with that country’s former defense minister General Chang Wanquan. Wanquan was succeeded by General Wei Fenghe, who was appointed to head China’s defense ministry in March 2018.
The revelations about China’s preferred post-Mnangagwa interim administration in Harare come hot on the heels, of news that Chiwenga, is currently in China, where he was flown from Pretoria in South Africa, to receive medical treatment for his mysterious ailment now confirmed to be related to multiple poisoning attacks by his political enemies.
According to a former cabinet minister who ran a security related portfolio in Mugabe’s government, Chiwenga’s trip to China has far more to do with just receiving medical treatment, as he has received intelligence that Beijing is allegedly setting in motion a plot to assist in Mnangagwa’s dethronement, and that military chiefs takeover the country for at least three years between 2020-2023 before the next presidential polls.
“People seem to have a short memory,” said the former minister in a telephone interview from his farm in Zimbabwe. “In November 2017, days after Chiwenga returned from a meeting in China with their senior military leaders, the primate city was plunged into political chaos, and the military seized control. Mugabe was placed under house arrest, and the rest is history. Now it’s political déjà vu, because from the intel I have the VP is receiving more than medical attention in China. Yes they want him to recover and be healthy and will administer an antidote they think will work, like your newspaper reported. However there is a bigger picture. China wants Mnangagwa out, and that a team of military chiefs run the country for at least three years until our next plebiscite in July 2023. Obviously thereafter a civilian leader will be appointed president with both our military and China’s approval. These things are very sensitive and delicate to plan, but now they have a perfect alibi of using Chiwenga’s health as a cover.”
A senior official with the ministry of defence at Defence House in the capital, also confirmed the dislosures this week, saying Mnangagwa was about to face the boot from power, because he has failed to provide requisite economic and political stability in Zimbabwe needed to protect China’s high stakes investments in Harare. The top official also added that under a post-Mnangagwa dispensation, the military wants to have the country’s first vice presidency in the presidium reserved for it’s high ranking generals.
China has invested in at least 128 projects in the country from 2000 to 2012. Zimbabwe is among the top three Chinese investment destinations in Africa, attracting a total FDI of more than $600 million in 2013. China was Zimbabwe’s largest trading partner in 2015, buying 27.8 percent of the country’s exports. Chinese companies have also been actively engaged in contractor services in telecommunication, construction, irrigation, and power, according to The Diplomat, an international current-affairs magazine for the Asia-Pacific region.
“The endgame is near for this administration. China indeed wants military chiefs to run a transitional mechanism until 2023, as opposed to a transitional authority led by civilian leaders. The main reason is that Zim 1 (Mnangagwa) has failed to guarantee economic and political stability for Chinese investments and projects in this country, just like President Mugabe before him. The military is trusted to deliver on that front, and that is why after Zim 1 is booted out of power, the coming dispensation thereafter will see the first vice presidency in the presidium being reserved for top generals. That way our country will be led by a civilian president, and the army as power brokers shall maintain a stake in the presidium through the first VP post,” said the defence official.
The first highest ranking military chief to attempt to be vice president, was Chiwenga’s predecessor, the late General Vitalis Zvinavashe, who came within a whisker of taking up the office in 2004 following the death of VP Simon Muzenda.
Chiwenga succeeded to become VP in December 2017, and chances are that his successor ZDF chief, General Philip Valerio Sibanda, is in line for a similar promotion.
Last month, former finance minister, Tendai Biti, said Zimbabwe is “ripe for another coup”, that could depose Mnangagwa barely two years after he wrestled power from Mugabe with the assistance of the army.
“We need a national transitional authority, we need to have a soft landing for our country. If we do not do that, we are heading for an implosion, an Armageddon,” said Biti during a panel discussion organised by the Southern African Political and Economic Series (Sapes) Trust.
“An Armageddon, in the form of another military coup and this is a point which I keep on seeing, that the signs are there just as they were obvious in 2017,” said the opposition MDC vice president.
— Spotlight Zimbabwe