The country’s military is reportedly preparing to declare martial law in the event of planned opposition protests becoming violent insurrections and grinding the nation to a halt, Spotlight Zimbabwe can exclusively reveal.
Martial law is an extreme and rare measure used by military authorities to control society during war or periods of civil unrest or chaos.
The unprecedented move by the army, according to intelligence sources in defence, has allegedly been agreed upon by the Joint Operations Command (JOC), and is meant to avoid the risk of civilians being killed by the dreaded National Reaction Force (NRF), which comprises officers from various security units, to avert possibilities of foreign military intervention.
An army faction aligned to Vice President, Rtd General Constantino Chiwenga, is also understood to be considering the martial law route, as an alternative way to crash President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s rule, outside an already planned subtle coup code-named, Operation Restore Economy, whose report we were the first to publish in May.
JOC is a shadowy quasi military organ, bringing together the country’s military-security complex which includes the army, and its military intelligence wing and Presidential Guard, Air Force, Police, Prisons and the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) to manage homeland and foreign security affairs.
NRF was involved in the shock August 2018 and January 2019 army killings, which left a swathe of terror and at least 17 extrajudicial killings, 16 rapes, 26 abductions and more than 600 assaults, according to the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum.
The army also deployed tanks on the streets in 1998, in what was the first civilian protests bloodshed, killing 10 people during mass riots staged by Zimbabweans, triggered by a wave of price escalations and extortionate taxes.
Former army general, Anselem Sanyatwe, who was NRF tactical commander, and former Presidential Guard Commander, denied that the army was responsible for the August 2018 killings, when he appeared before The Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry. Last week the United States placed Sanyatwe and his wife on its sanctions list for the killings. The couple are now barred from traveling to America.
“We are on the verge of a very dark chapter in our nation’s history,” said the defence ministry sources.
“The Joint Operations Command met recently, and they have agreed to declare martial law to deal with the opposition’s planned series of violent insurrections. They have gathered intel of intentions to bring anarchy to the country and render it ungovernable by the MDC Alliance, which will seek to provoke our forces into using full force, thereby calling for foreign military intervention in Zimbabwe, through United Nations peacekeeping forces. Our security apparatus, has no choice but to pre-empt this scenario, by bringing sanity to the crisis that might arise.”
Another senior army officer familiar with details of the martial law plan, said the plot was bigger, and could be used by a faction loyal to the VP as a pretext to smoothly concurrently remove Mnangagwa from power, especially if the declaration is to be indefinite.
“It is JOC and not the president who will declare martial law, therefore he loses his governing powers especially if the declaration is indefinite,” said the officer.
“JOC is the real power, and it is run by the vice president’s loyalists. It is JOC that put the president in power and he has no say, other than symbolic executive authority on paper. His rivals are plotting to smoothly ease him out of power through this route. Citizens must be prepared for military checkpoints and military-enforced curfews banning people from moving out of designated areas or even leaving their homes during certain times. This is not some game or fiction. It is what you journalists call the endgame, and it is upon us. There’ll be a new government in Harare if the VP’s faction has it’s way.”
A diplomatic source in South Africa’s capital, where Chiwenga was staying and receiving medical attention before recently being flown to China, for further expert treatment said Chiwenga’s “fantastic four” had reportedly been consulted about the operational matters concerning the mooted martial law.
The fantastic four refers to retired Lieutenant Generals Martin Chedondo, Douglas Nyikayaramba, Anselem Sanyatwe and Air Vice Marshal Shebba Shumbayaonda.
The quartet was removed from their posts in February and “promoted” to diplomatic service, while Chiwenga was absent in India for treatment, resulting in speculation that Mnangagwa was taking advantage of Chiwenga’s absence to coup-proof himself by purging the VP’s close allies in the armed forces, all who had played a key role in the ouster of former leader, Robert Mugabe, in November 2017.
“It is something we have caught wind of from this side of the Limpopo (martial law declaration plan in Zimbabwe), said the envoy who has previously served in Harare a few years ago.
“Although the Vice President of Zimbabwe’s fantastic four have been deployed on diplomatic service. They can be recalled to assume command in times of crisis, and we hear they were consulted about the operational matters of mooted martial law by JOC. These generals still wield influence in the military and are involved in national security affairs, which they report to the VP. Yes he’s in China and unwell but the Zimbabwe military has exclusive confidential channels of communication with him, and him alone inside your presidium. Something seismic is about to happen in your country, no doubt.”
The Lost Tapes
A leaked audio recording with the voice of First Lady, Auxillia Mnangagwa, that went viral on social media in mid-July has also raised alarm that Mnangagwa’s rift with the army has widened, and that his beleaguered administration is in increased jeopardy of a military putsch.
In the audio, an ascared Auxillia shouts at a suspected Military Intelligence (MI) operative, who was identified as Murombo in the recording, questioning why his team was tracking her down everywhere she went, suggesting the operative could go ahead and kill Mnangagwa but spare her life.
“You are spying on me, if you ask Manjoro he will tell you that I told him that I will ask you about it, what do you want from me Murombo?
“If I die, it is on you. You were using Manjoro to give you details of my whereabouts and now that he is gone you have started again,” the First Lady says in the eight minute audio.
“Who are you telling my whereabouts? What do you need that information for? I am coming to deal with you,” she continues.
“If it is Mnangagwa whom you do not want just kill him and leave me alone I have my own surname, I do not speak politics, I do not speak about the army, what if I die another death do you think you will survive?
“You are seeking to deal with Mnangagwa through me through tracking my phone, am I Mnangagwa?” she queried. “I am shocked. I am just a woman, a granny but I have powerful people like you spying on me. Go shoot Mnangagwa and spare me. I am no threat to anyone. Go and shoot Mnangagwa do not shoot me, I am not a threat, go and shoot Mnangagwa.”
Zimbabwe came close to declaring a state of emergency and martial law in 2001 under Mugabe, in response to US legislation imposing sanctions on the country’s leaders because of political violence.
Mugabe’s cabinet was reported at the time, of intending to use the then looming passage of the Zimbabwe democracy bill in the US Congress as a pretext for declaring a state of emergency which would allow the president to suspend parliament, delay elections and rule by decree, according to the Guardian newspaper citing a report in a weekly financial publication in Harare.
The opposition MDC led by Nelson Chamisa, has slated 16 August as the day to hold marches against corruption, unemployment, power and fuel shortages, and a collapsing economy, the party said in a notice to the police dated Aug. 5.
“The national challenges are a result of a governance and legitimacy crisis arising primarily out of the disputed election of July 2018,” MDC national organising secretary Amos Chibaya said in the notice, reported by Reuters.