Voters shut out ex-army bosses

HARARE - The majority of ex-security officials who participated in the just-ended Zanu PF primary elections were rejected by voters, an indication that the former soldiers are finding it tough to ease into civilian life.

Since the takeover of government last November, engineered by the military, and the subsequent elevation of President Emmerson Mnangagwa to his current post, former army bosses stepped into the political ring en-masse, disenchanted with how the Zanu PF leadership, under former president Robert Mugabe, had run into the ground what was once Africa’s most promising economy.

To make way for the ex-security officials, the Zanu PF politburo — the supreme decision-making organ of the ruling party in-between congresses — even waived some of the entry requirements for war veterans to enable them to participate in the primaries, which ran from April 29 to May 1.

But in what political analysts described as a vote of no confidence in the military’s encroachment into the political arena, most of the former soldiers and security chiefs were soundly pummelled by minnows and the more experienced Zanu PF politicians.

Those who were shut out by voters at the extended polls included retired major Max Zvidzai (Chirumhanzu-Zibagwe) and retired generals Elasto Madzingira and Clifford Mumbengegwi (Chivi North) who lost to fellow army counterpart, Mathias Tongofa.

In Chivi Central, another army officer Manasa Mahapa bit the dust, with the same fate befalling Denis Masomere — a retired lieutenant colonel, who lost to businessman Killer Zivhu.

In Gweru-Vungu, another retired colonel Tenias Shava received a baptism of fire and would have to wait for five more years to try his luck again.

There was also gnashing of teeth among retired officers from other security arms with Edmore Veterai — the former police assistant commissioner, who was the face of operation Murambatsvina in 2005 — being among some of the prominent faces that fell by the wayside during the primary polls.

But not all men and women who used to wear military fatigues or were in the other arms of the security services were repudiated by the people.

In Chiredzi South, incumbent, Kalisto Gwanetsa, who is a retired brigadier-general won just as did former Central Intelligence Organisation director Albert Ngulube, who swept to victory in Beitbridge East.

As if they had sensed danger, top former generals who spearheaded Mugabe’s downfall after 37 years in power, opted for less competitive senatorial seats. The most notable figures being Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement Perrance Shiri, and the minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Sibusiso Moyo.

Analysts canvassed by the Daily News said while those accustomed to life in the barracks were used to giving orders, those who chose to swap their military fatigues for politics were finding it difficult to adjust to life as career politicians.

Respected University of Zimbabwe lecturer Eldred Masunungure said soldiers cannot stand against politicians who have acquired the skill of bargaining and even deceiving.

“Right now we have two sides, the military and political but the military come short of delivery because they are in the wrong place. They are military actors in a political arena, some fell short because they do not have the skills to engage, they just makes orders and that is where they fell,” said Masunungure.

Former minister of Youths and Mugabe’s nephew Patrick Zhuwao wrote an opinion piece yesterday tracing the defeat of most Zanu PF heavyweights at the reversal of the land reform programme, revision of the Indigenisation Act and an attempt to cull thousands of national youth service (NYS) graduates.

“The military junta has not taken into account the 80 000 NYS graduates who are firm believers of generational renewal and economic empowerment. The military junta has mistakenly sought to expunge the ministry responsible for the youth and economic empowerment. The military junta has sought to reverse the land reform programme. The military junta is negating the ideological premise that formed the core of the NYS orientation programme,” said Zhuwao

Although the losing heavyweights are crying foul even appealing to the politburo — in which they are members — insiders said if the will of the people is reversed then there would be another “bhora musango” — the 2008 scenario where candidates sabotaged Mugabe, resulting in him losing to former prime minister, the late Morgan Tsvangirai.

Academic and researcher Ibbo Mandaza said Mnangagwa and his military allies misread the people’s mood last November as an endorsement to their rule.

“Mnangagwa has no chance in the coming elections. People did not want only Mugabe to go but all of them to go. There is no difference between Mugabe and Mnangagwa and people want the whole lot to go, people who have been supporting Mugabe are Chiwenga, the military and Mnangagwa and people are demonstrating their dislike of the old guard,” said Mandaza.

With elections set for July this year and fault lines already emerging between civilians and the military guard, political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said the writing is clearly on the wall, no one wants military rule.

“These primaries also clearly show that people made it clear in November 2017 that they did not want Mugabe anymore. But by supporting the ouster of Mugabe, they did not in the same token state what government they wanted. They did not aver that they wanted military rule. I hope the outcome of Zanu PF primaries sends a clear signal to securocrats that some Zimbabweans appreciated soldiers removing Mugabe, but did not approve of replacing Mugabe by a military junta,” said Saungweme.

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