IN a move that further highlights the blurred lines between the ruling party and the military, Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa all but confirmed that army General Constatine Chiwengwa is a Zanu PF politician and involved in organising party structures, when he introduced him as the party commissar to thousands of supporters in Zibagwe.
“The person I want you to meet is our commissar, do you know Chiwengwa? He is the one who brought all the helicopters which you saw here today. Stand up Chiwengwa so that people can see you,” Mnangagwa said as he introduced the army general.
After Chiwengwa stood up and gestured in a form of a salute to party supporters, Mnangagwa told supporters that the general was shy to repeat the Zanu PF slogan because he was in uniform.
“He is shy of chanting our slogans because he is in uniform, but he is our commissar,” he said.
This episode is likely to provide a throwback to the Global Political Agreement days, when the opposition insisted on security sector reform, an issue that was actively thwarted by Zanu PF.
Army generals are supposed to remain apolitical, but have in the past played a major role in propping up Zanu PF, to the point of holding press conferences and declaring that they would not salute people who lacked war liberation credentials.
Chiwengwa accompanied, President Robert Mugabe to Chinyika Ranch, some 68km outside Kwekwe, with four helicopters.
He was among the first to endorse Mnangagwa as a suitable heir in the Zanu PF succession matrix during a birthday celebration at Mnangagwa’s Precab Farm, Sherwood, in 2012.
“Mnangagwa is the only surviving member of the first politburo meeting because in the first days the president did not attend politburo. All the others who attended the first meeting are dead and only Mnangagwa is alive today. I am sure he is alive for a reason which we all know,” he said.
While Mnangagwa’s statements on Chiwengwa may have been innocuous, it may put into question, Saviour Kasukuwere’s position as the Zanu PF commissar.
Coincidentally, a Sunday Mail columnist, who writes under the pen name Bishop Lazarus, yesterday warned that Kasukuwere should be wary of facing the same fate as MDC-T politician, Nelson Chamisa, who held a similar post in that party, but was defeated at congress.
Drawing parallels between the two, Bishop Lazarus said Kasukuwere should “watch his step”, as there were political landmines all over.
The columnist said others in the party were pining to prove that, indeed, the “gang of four” – Kasukuwere, Jonathan Moyo, Oppah Muchinguri and Patrick Zhuwawo – were intent to destroy Zanu PF from within.
Mugabe, speaking at the same event, called on his party supporters to vote resoundingly for Auxilia Mnangagwa in the March 27 by-elections although in the same sentence spoke against tribalism.
Mugabe said the Midlands had failed to vote overwhelmingly for Zanu PF because of tribalists who felt they should not vote for his party.
“We did not get the outcome we wanted in the Midlands because there are others who say they won’t vote for us,” he said.
“When we liberated this country, we liberated Zimbabweans and not certain tribes, it is true we have different cultures and languages which we speak, but we are all Zimbabwean that is the philosophy we developed when we came from the liberation struggle.”
Zanu PF has struggled to get votes in the Midlands and Matabeleland in past elections because of its perceived role in the Gukurahundi genocide, which left more than 20 000, mainly Ndebele people dead.
Mugabe has said it was a moment of madness while, Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko recently said it was a conspiracy by the West.