Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) commander, Constantine Chiwenga, has all but confirmed his factional inclination in the Zanu PF succession war by firing a subtle salvo at Jonathan Moyo, who he implied was destroying the ruling party from within.
In an interview with the State-controlled Sunday Mail weekly at the weekend, Chiwenga also delivered an indirect blow at Mandi Chimene, the self-annointed leader of a splinter war veterans group and provincial minister for Manicaland province.
Both Moyo and Chimene have been associated with Generation 40 (G40), a Zanu PF camp gunning for Young Turks to steer Zanu PF into the future.
Chiwenga, on the other hand, is seen as a staunch backer of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa who is leading a competing faction that is reportedly pushing for Mugabe to vacate office before the 2018 general elections.
Another provincial minister, Shuvai Mahofa, who is seen fighting from Mnangagwa’s camp, last week called on Chiwenga to mobilise a military coup.
“We were reading the newspapers when they started saying, ‘When you want to destroy Zanu PF, you need to do it from within’,” said Chiwenga.
“They (newspapers) were telling us that there would be some young politicians who must rule. Is that not on record? Do you think we were not noticing? Is that not what is happening? Live and let sleeping dogs lie,” said Chiwenga.
Moyo, the Higher and Tertiary Education and former Information minister, is regarded as the author of the statement that called for the destruction of Zanu PF from inside.
Even though the statement was attributed to him some decade ago, Moyo only refuted the claim in January 2015, saying he was quoted out of context by “uneducated media minds”.
While addressing journalists, Moyo said: “It will be absolutely nonsensical for a person like me to say the best way to destroy Zanu PF is from within”.
Chiwenga said liberation fighters who perished during the war against colonialism that culminated in independence in 1980 had not died in vain.
The statement comes as President Robert Mugabe has just launched a purge of veterans who called on him to go last month, saying he was a “genocidal dictator”.
Mugabe addressed a hastily convened Zanu PF meeting in Harare late last month and ordered the rebellious war vets, among them Christopher Mutsvangwa (chairman of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association), Victor Matemadanda (secretary general) and Douglas Mahiya (secretary for information) to be replaced by a Chimene-led outfit.
Mahiya and Matemadanda were recently arrested and face charges of insulting Mugabe, but the war vets successfully barred the Chimene grouping from masquerading as ex-combatants’ leaders through a court interdict.
Chiwenga, signalling his implied support of the embattled war vets, indirectly rapped Chimene, who he accused of smoking dagga.
Chimene has publicly acknowledged that she is being labelled a dagga smoker, a rumour that has been circulating for a long time.
The army general told Chimene off, saying if she was possessed by “evil spirits”, she must confine her problems to her family.
He hinted that Chimene was not a true war veteran as she claims.
“This nonsense of someone who was at a refugee camp or was a cleaner moving around telling people that he or she fought in the struggle is just that – nonsense. Which war did you fight in? People must just smoke their dagga in peace; that is permissible.
“If your dagga smoking is due to family evil spirits, it’s okay, just keep it away from us. Don’t disturb us because we have lost thousands of innocent sons and daughters,” said Chiwenga, a commander during the war.
Chimene used a recent Zanu PF meeting to berate Mnangagwa, urging Mugabe to fire him for causing divisions in the ruling party.
Mnangagwa, in turn, referred to her as a barking dog.
Mugabe is seemingly failing to decisively deal with the rebellious war veterans, who fall under Chiwenga’s purview as a reserve force.
With the courts having frustrated his plan to dissolve the current veterans leadership, the 92 year-old leader has dispatched the new ex-combatants’ affairs minister, Tshinga Dube, to negotiate with Mutsvangwa who he replaced.
Dube late last week confirmed Mugabe had sent him to talk to Mutsvangwa and his lieutenants so that they may move, but they insist that all must be done in accordance with their constitution which gives them a couple more years at the helm.
With Grace Mugabe, the president’s wife, also reportedly backing G40, Chiwenga’s dig at Moyo and Chimene could rub the feisty first lady the wrong way.
She has already accused the generals of plotting to kill her son, Chatunga, and attempting to bomb their family dairy farm.