Speaking at a press conference on Monday at the National Army Headquarters in Harare, Army Chief Constantino Chiwenga pleaded for end to purges in the ruling party after former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa was fired from the state and ultimately from Zanu-PF on accusations of plotting to oust President Robert Mugabe from power.
“It is with humility and heavy heart that we come before you to pronounce the indisputable reality that there is instability in Zanu-PF today and as a result anxiety in the country at large,“ said Chiwenga.
“It is pertinent to restate that the Zimbabwe Defence Forces remain the major stock holder in respect to the gains of the liberation struggle and when these are threatened we are obliged to take corrective measures,” Chiwenga added.
Though the defence chief could not furnish the measures that might be taken, the forces have shown their displeasure at the purging of ruling party members who have a liberation background.
“The current purging and cleansing process in Zanu-PF which so far is targeting mostly members associated with our liberation history is a serious cause for concern in the Defence Forces,” Chiwenga said.
As the ruling party heads for a special congress in December, former Mnangagwa loyalists are facing expulsion and have been barred from contesting in the upcoming elections for Zanu-PF.
“As the party goes for an extraordinary congress, members must go with equal opportunity to exercise their democratic rights,” Chiwenga said.
Political science Professor Eldred Masunungure from the University of Zimbabwe said the military are saying the ruling party is crossing a red line and they must put their house in order, otherwise there shall be consequences.
“This is putting the relationship between the military and Zanu-PF at a dangerous level but this will depend on how the political leadership will take this move by the military,” Masunungure told Daily Maverick.
“Don’t provoke us but a civil war scenario can be a reserve option or last resort, but the military is making a statement to Zanu-PF that (they must) behave properly, especially by not denigrating those who went to war,” Masunungure added.
Dewa Mavhinga, the Southern African Director at Human Rights Watch, said the military should leave politics to politicians or resign and join the political fray.
“General Chiwenga’s comments violate the Zimbabwean constitution which bars the army from interfering in politics. It heightens the risk of political instability in the country with the army potentially intervening on behalf of a particular faction. Zimbabwe is on the precipice, there is urgent need for the Southern African Development Community now to intervene to prevent the instability and turmoil in the country,” Mavhinga told Daily Maverick.
He further highlighted that Chiwenga has signed his own dismissal letter by issuing a partisan and highly politicised letter barely a few weeks after his Commander-in-Chief Robert Mugabe warned the army not to dabble in politics.
Masunungure further noted that if there is change it has to be swift. “The military are saying we can’t be weeded out just like that at this stage; if there is a transition it has to be managed well and a gradual process,” said Masungungure.
The leadership in Zanu-PF was yet to respond to the statement by the military.
Chiwenga noted how fighting within the ruling party has resulted in under-development.
“As a result of the squabbling within the ranks of Zanu-PF there has been no meaningful development in the country for the past five years. The resultant economic impasse has ushered in more challenges to the Zimbabwean populace such as cash shortages and rising commodity prices,” Chiwenga said. DM
Photo: Thousands of Zanu-PF supporters gathered at the party’s headquarters in Harare, 08 November 2017. The solidarity rally was held to show support of Robert Mugabe and also throw weight behind First Lady Grace Mugabe for the post of vice president following the sacking of former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa from the post on 06 November 2017. Photo: Aaron Ufumeli/(EPA-EFE)
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