Powerful Vice President, Rtd General Constantino Chiwenga, is now reportedly running the Zimbabwe state, and has all but reduced President Emmerson Mnangagwa to having a monitoring role of government business, as his failed new dispensation administration begins to fizzle out of power, Spotlight Zimbabwe, can reveal today.
High level sources in the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC), together with senior defence officials close to Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) Commander, General Philip Valerio Sibanda’s office, have all this week confirmed that the full levers of state power are now solidly in the hands of VP Chiwenga, through the Joint Operations Command (JOC), which he chairs, as it has taken charge of important day to day government and state affairs obligations.
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 security affairs.
“Nobody will admit it, but our current administration is being fizzled out of power,” the OPC sources said. “The vice president and security chiefs aligned to his faction, are now running important day to day affairs of the state and government. They now have the full levers of power, which they have silently vested in the VP, leaving the president with minuscule amounts of power over government business, in more of a monitoring capacity. The political power matrix between the president and his deputy, is now increasingly reminiscent of President Robert Mugabe and former prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai’s relationship during the coalition government era, where the former had the power, while the latter was a symbolic office-bearer.”
This publication revealed for the first time in September 2019, that Chiwenga is allegedly going to use the country’s dreaded JOC, to forcefully kick out Mnangagwa from office, and that the former ZDF chief had been polishing the nitty-gritties of the ouster plan from China together with a coterie of generals in government, who want Mnangagwa gone without further delay.
“We believe a lot has been taking place behind the scenes in China, everytime Chiwenga flies out, as JOC prepares for the post-Mnangagwa order. The military has been planning their moves on imminent leadership changes in this country from Beijing using sophisticated and encrypted military communications, obviously with a hidden hand of China, because Beijing is a big stakeholder and stockholder in this sensitive process,” another OPC source said.
Chiwenga spent four months last year seeking medical treatment at a Beijing military hospital, after suffering vile poisoning attempts on his life from his political rivals in Zanu PF and government. The VP’s prolonged stay in the Far East, despite reports that he had recovered, led to speculation that he could be planning to topple Mnangagwa in a coup upon his eventual return to Zimbabwe in November 2019.
The vice president only stayed briefly in the country for about three weeks, and attended a crucial ruling Zanu PF national people’s conference in Goromonzi, to seal his VP seat in the presidium which was coming under threat from Mnangagwa’s allies, before leaving for China again before the end of December. Chiwenga then returned in January 2020 to be acting president, coinciding with a high profile visit to Zimbabwe that month, by China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, during the vice president’s tenure as acting head of state.
Yi paid tribute to Chiwenga “for contributing towards the development of solid China-Zimbabwe relations”.
Chiwenga was again as recent as last month back in China, for another medical review, during which Spotlight Zimbabwe established, the VP had reportedly signed a “Defence Pact” with the Asian powerhouse, which will see Harare and Beijing becoming subsequent military allies. The VP returned to Zimbabwe a fortnight ago, to chair the Covid-19 taskforce.
Defence officials said, Chiwenga is now more powerful than before as the head of JOC, as he now directly manages national security, food security and the health security of the country.
“Titanic changes in the shift of power in this country took place when the General (Chiwenga), came back from China last November but many didn’t notice and remain blinded,” the officials said.
“Since November 2019, Joc now operates a national command center at the defence university, from which Chiwenga is running the state. Mnangagwa is only pushing papers in government, but like you have already reported his departure has been finalised by security chiefs, and they’re keeping everyone guessing on when exactly the president is going to say goodbye. Mnangagwa is no longer part of Joc and he does not attend their meetings at the defence university headquarters. What he now receives are security briefings from the defence minister, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, who is a member of Joc. He is now relying heavily on his intelligence briefings and meetings with the state security minister, to have a glimpse of the national security situation in the country, but it’s not enough, because his security minister is not privy and part to all of Joc’s activities.”
Mnangagwa according to other government insiders, just like Mugabe before him is now a hostage president, at the mercy of Chiwenga and the country’s military complex.
“Just to give you an illustration of the VP powers. Did you know that Mnangagwa could not immediately decide on the coronavirus lockdown or the need to deploy the army to maintain order and compliance on restrictions, without getting a green light from Chiwenga who was still in China then?”
“Chiwenga said it was too early and unnecessary to send soldiers into the streets to deal with lockdown restriction violators. The military then demanded that Chiwenga is appointed to chair the Covid-19 taskforce, before Chiwenga drafted a speech for Mnangagwa to read on televison with regards to the 21 day-lockdown in Zimbabwe and the role of the army in helping with the coronavirus crisis situation.”
In further consolidating it’s control of the state and government, Joc according to a former cabinet minister who managed a security related portfolio in one of Mugabe’s administrations, said the military had also quietly taken control of Zimbabwe’s television airwaves and aviation airspace in a subtle fashion.
“Joc has taken over the television broadcasting center by increasing members of it’s military unit based at Pockets Hill Studios in Harare. That place is not just a Zbc head office, but a high security zone that is why it is guarded by armed soldiers. Now the question is, why would they increase units stationed in Highlands? It’s to do with information control, because very soon, there will be imminent announcements to do with Mnangagwa’s exit, as soon as he officially resigns and hands over to Chiwenga.”
Pockets Hill is a broadcasting centre owned by ZBC. It was opened in 1970. Another building located in Highlands Harare was commissioned by former leader, Mugabe in 1994.
The country has one television station, ZBC TV, also known as ZTV, which is the only free to air Zimbabwean television network. The station broadcasts nationwide and is owned by the country’s public broadcaster, ZBC.
Spotlight Zimbabwe has since reported that the change of power from Mnangagwa to Chiwenga, is set to be announced on national television at the appropriate time.
The army used the national broadcaster in November 2017, to announce the ouster of Mugabe. Then a Major General SB Moyo, Chief of Staff Logistics, and now foreign affairs minister made the following speech on national television after the military seized it and blocked off access to government offices:
“Following the address we made on November 13, 2017, which we believe our main broadcaster, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation and The Herald were directed not to publicize, the situation in our country has moved to another level. Firstly, we wish to assure the nation that His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, and commander-in-chief of Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Comrade RG Mugabe, and his family are safe and sound and their security is guaranteed,” said Moyo dressed in his army uniform.
“We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice. As soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy.”
“Another area they have seized control although on paper the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe appears to be running operations is the country’s airspace,” said the former intelligence minister by phone last night.
“When the country’s aviation system broke down last year, the military decided to take over air traffic control services, with the help of Chinese airforce and aviation experts. China has also agreed to install a new radar system for free, and save government of about US$22 million which was needed for the replacement.”
In recent times, the Chinese government has pledged continuous support for Zimbabwe’s aviation industry and capacity development, through one of their diplomats in the capital.
Speaking at a Bilateral Training Seminar on aviation held in Harare last December, Chen Ning, the economic and commercial counsellor at the Chinese Embassy, emphasized that the Chinese government will actively assist Zimbabwe in its efforts to restore the development of the country’s civil aviation industry.
“We will promote Chinese airlines to open direct links to Zimbabwe, continue to deepen bilateral aviation cooperation between China and Zimbabwe, provide human resources training in the field of civil aviation for Zimbabwe,” he said.
“From the 1990s to the present, the Chinese government has financed more than 4,900 Zimbabwean officers and specialists to attend seminars and training courses in China,” Chen said according to news agency Xinhua.
OPC sources added that on the food security front, Chiwenga is believed to be working with the Chinese government, for a new Beijing supported and funded command agriculture model for the 2021/2022 season, that will see the army growing maize and wheat on a number of government owned farms, through the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA).
Some of the farms under consideration for the food project, include Kondozi Estates in Manicaland, and the Nuanetsi Ranch in Mwenezi.
Nuanetsi Ranch is estimated to be around 862 000 acres. The large multi-purpose farm, which is the size of 1% of Zimbabwe, had it’s acquisition facilitated by the late former Vice-President Dr Joshua Nkomo, under the Development Trust of Zimbabwe in 1989.
Meanwhile, Spotlight Zimbabwe, can also reveal that the trio of: Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) Commander, General Philip Valerio Sibanda; Lands and Agriculture minister, Rtd Air Chief Marshal Perence Shiri; and Foreign affairs minister, Rtd Lieutenant-General Sibusiso Busi Moyo are being considered by Chiwenga for the two vice presidents slots in his new government’s presidium, which is starting to take shape as the nation awaits to see Mnangagwa’s back.
— Spotlight Zimbabwe