In a complete political power game-changing move all but set to guarantee Vice President, Rtd General Constantino Chiwenga, control and takeover of the country’s presidency from President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the vice president has reportedly signed a Defence Pact with China, which will see Harare and Beijing becoming subsequent military allies, Spotlight Zimbabwe, has gathered.
A defence pact is a type of treaty or military alliance in which the signatories promise to support each other militarily and to defend each other. In general, the signatories point out the threats in the treaty and concretely prepare to respond to it together.
Beijing is now thought to be in favour of a Chiwenga presidency, as she moves to secure her massive economic, political and security interests in Zimbabwe. The Asian powerhouse has heaped Chiwenga with praise, and through their foreign minister Wang Yi, who visited the country two months ago, paid tribute to the VP “for contributing towards the development of solid China-Zimbabwe relations”.
We reported early this month, that security chiefs have finalised Mnangagwa’s departure from power, as Zimbabwe’s leader, and that his deputy is soon set to takeover the reins of government as a transitional president, at a date and ceremony to be announced and broadcast on national television.
According to defence ministry senior officials, Chiwenga’s up and down trips to China, have more to do with a “special defence pact” between Zimbabwe and China, than the former Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) Commander’s health concerns and routine checkups.
Chiwenga returned from a four month medical treatment in China in November last year, and was immediately back in Beijing the following month for a doctor assessment before Christmas.
The VP then returned to the country in January this year, and took turns as acting president with his counterpart, Kembo Mohadi, while Mnangagwa was forced to vacation at his Kwekwe farm, amid speculation he was afraid of flying out of Harare due to political putsch fears.
Chiwenga then left Harare, for yet another medical review in China a fortnight ago, and is expected back home anytime soon.
When the VP flew out in December last year for his first medical review, following failed poisoning attempts on his life by political rivals, high level sources inside the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC), revealed that Chiwenga had reportedly received a “secret private invitation” by Chinese President, Xi Jinping, for undisclosed business and talks.
The invitation was allegedly relayed to him by China’s deputy ambassador to Zimbabwe, Zhao Baogang, through foreign affairs minister, Sibusiso Moyo, who met with the Chargé d’Affaires on 12 December 2019 at his Munhumutapa offices.
Defence officials privy to the matter this week, confirmed that Chiwenga was in China to sign a special defence pact, without giving more details pertaining to the military entente.
“It’s all to do with the signing of a special defence pact with the Chinese, and it’s a confidential matter not for public consumption,” the senior officials said.
“Honestly there’s more to the Beijing trip which the VP took last week. Why should one fly right into the epicentre of a global pandemic’s origins, all in the name of a medical check-up which cannot wait? That’s how important this defence pact between China and Zimbabwe is. Some of the key players involved in formulating the pact during their time in office, include the predecessor to the current defence minister, who was going to benefit immensely from the military treaty as he was tipped to succeed President Robert Mugabe. This could explain why Chiwenga and Mnangagwa did not take action against him during the November 2017 coup purges of Mugabe’s ministers.”
A Zimbabwean military attache in Beijing, also in e-mail communications last week corroborated that Chiwenga was in the country for the defence pact, apart from a genuine medical review appointment.
“Chiwenga is here principally to sign a defence pact with China, apart from a genuine medical review appointment with his doctors, which the embassy is aware of,” she said.
“The finer details of the pact are highly classified, but we know that the comprehensive initial defence pact between our two countries, was first mooted in 2010. A final draft was then brought to the table, for further examination when Chiwenga was appointed vice president and defence and war veterans affairs minister in December 2017. Most of the ground work had already been done, and this was actually during the VP’s November 2017 visit, then as ZDF Commander shortly before the coup. So there you have it, a fresh revelation. Chiwenga was mapping out a defence pact with China before the coup that toppled late President Robert Mugabe.”
China described Chiwenga’s visit as ZDF chief before the November coup as a “normal bilateral exchange”, which Mugabe himself had approved.
Asian diplomatic sources in Pretoria familiar with the military and political dynamics between Zimbabwe and China, said although the defence pact between Beijing and Harare is shrouded in secrecy, they had intelligence on China’s intention to formalise the opening of an official military base in Zimbabwe’s Manicaland area, as part of the pact’s provisions including the funding and training of the country’s new special forces to be based in Kariba.
“Our intelligence information on the defence pact, shows that China is going to officially set up their first Southern African military base in Zimbabwe’s Manicalnad area. Beijing is also undertaking to fund and train a new Zimbabwean special forces unit to be stationed in Kariba. Other key points include: arms and military technology sales; advanced airforce pilot training; and the provision of economic lines of credit for Harare.”
China opened it’s first military base overseas and in Africa, in Djibouti in 2017 at a cost of US$590 million.
Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to China, Lieutenant Gen (Rtd) Martin Chedondo had not responded to a fax sent to his office yesterday, asking for comment. The embassy office lines were also out of reach.
— Sportlight Zimbabwe