…Coup-proofing strategy at the core of his survival
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has made forced cross-cutting changes to his Presidential Guard (PG) Brigade several months after his wife Auxillia clashed with one of the most senior officers in the unit, The NewsHawks can report.
The changes reflect Mnangagwa’s continued coup-proofing strategy and search for stability in the military forces which brought him to power through a coup in November 2017.
The PG, responsible for providing protection to the President and his deputies and securing Harare district, is a force trained to fight in built-up areas such as cities and towns. The unit is also part of Mnangagwa’s forceful presidential motorcade.
The changes in the PG have seen the unit’s second-in-command, Colonel David Nyasha, being recently replaced by Mnangagwa’s former aide-de-camp, Never-Jones Makuyana, while Nyasha is understood to have been posted to army headquarters after being promoted to the rank of Brigadier-General.
Security sources said Nyasha opted out of the yellow beret unit after he clashed with his superior, Brigadier-General Fidelis Mhonda.
Makuyana, who at the time was a lieutenant-colonel, was deployed to army headquarters after Mnangagwa changed his security team following the White City Stadium explosion in Bulawayo in 2018 which claimed the lives of some security personnel and injured several high-ranking government officials.
“Makuyana miraculously escaped unscathed, but his service pistol was damaged by shrapnel from the blast,” a source said, adding Makuyana is now PG second-in-command.
Mhonda took over from Anselem Sanyatwe, who was briefly promoted to Major-General before being posted to diplomatic service in Tanzania.
Military sources said Sanyatwe was retired from the army because he was seen as too loyal to Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga who engineered the coup during his tenure as Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.
The removal of Sanyatwe and other top commanders widened the political rift between Mnangagwa and Chiwenga who are now strange political bedfellows.
Following a spat with the First Lady, which went viral on social media platforms, former officer commanding 1 Presidential Guard, Samson Murombo, who later became one of Mnangagwa’s aides-de-camp, was deployed to the Nyanga-based All Arms Battle School in what sources said was a result of the clash with Mnangagwa’s wife.
Lt-Col Mangezi took over as 1PG commander, while Lt-Col Arison Chicha took the reigns at 2PG. Before taking charge of 1 Presidential Guard Battalion, which is next to Mnangagwa’s official residence, Murombo was in charge of 2 Presidential Guard in Dzivaresekwa.
Murombo was in the news last year in July after an audio recording of the enraged First Lady was leaked, showing her interference and Grace Mugabe-style political grandstanding.
Mnangagwa’s wife accused Murombo of spying on her and plotting to kill the President. Her outbursts betrayed the First Family’s paranoid disposition and concerns about their security.
“You are spying on me,” Auxillia railed at Murombo on the audio, not giving him a chance to respond to allegations even though he pleaded with her to hear him out.
Auxillia’s rantings had echoes of Grace’s shrieks of outrage against military figures.
“Get away! I’m just a mere woman, a grandmother. Go shoot Mnangagwa, I ask for pardon. Don’t shoot me, I have children. Just shoot Mnangagwa, because I know this is all about him.”
Sources said another junior officer, identified as Captain Promise Manjoro, whom the First Lady accused of spying on her, was also redeployed to Wafa Wafa Training School. Before his latest redeployment, Manjoro was the adjutant (senior administration officer) at 2PG and before that he was part of the First Lady’s Security personnel.
The Presidential Guard unit, which played a key role in toppling former president Robert Mugabe, underwent several changes after the coup code-named Operation Restore Legacy. Two years ago, a number of low-ranking officers from 2PG were transferred to 1PG.
This, according to sources, was part of Mnangagwa’s coup-proofing strategy, while it was also calculated to contain Chiwenga. Presidential spokesperson George Charamba could not be reached for comment at the time of going to print.
— The NewsHawks