Zim gen­eral calls to end party purge

Rift deep­en­ing within Zanu-PF

Daily News - - WORLD -

ZIM­BABWE’S top gen­eral warned yes­ter­day that the mil­i­tary would not hes­i­tate to step in to end purges against for­mer lib­er­a­tion war fighters in Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe’s rul­ing party af­ter Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa was stripped of his vice pres­i­dent’s post.

Gen­eral Con­stantino Chi­wenga, com­man­der of Zim­babwe De­fence Forces and a po­lit­i­cal ally of Mnan­gagwa who was also ex­pelled from the rul­ing Zanu-PF, said in­sta­bil­ity in the party was caus­ing anx­i­ety in Zim­babwe.

Chi­wenga’s state­ment, read out at a news con­fer­ence packed with army top brass, comes at a time of a deep­en­ing rift within Zanu-PF over who will even­tu­ally lead the party af­ter the 93-year-old Mu­gabe goes.

Mnan­gagwa’s re­moval pro­vides a boost for Grace Mu­gabe, the wife of the pres­i­dent, who is sup­ported by the largely youth­ful G40 fac­tion of Zanu-PF to suc­ceed her husband.

Chi­wenga said Zanu-PF had been hi­jacked by peo­ple who did not fight in the 1970s lib­er­a­tion war, a clear shot at the G40 wing and Grace who is a vo­cal critic of Mnan­gagwa.

“We must re­mind those be­hind the cur­rent treach­er­ous shenani­gans that, when it comes to mat­ters of pro­tect­ing our revo­lu­tion, the mil­i­tary will not hes­i­tate to step in,” Chi­wenga said.

“The cur­rent purg­ing… tar­get­ing mem­bers of the party with a lib­er­a­tion back­ground must stop forth­with,” he said.

Mu­gabe’s 37 years in power has been an­chored by sup­port from the mil­i­tary, which has al­ways said it would not back any­one for pres­i­dent who did not fight in the lib­er­a­tion war.

But the age­ing leader has been ac­cus­ing the gen­er­als of tak­ing sides in the suc­ces­sion race.

It is rare for the de­fence forces to pub­licly take sides in the af­fairs of Zanu-PF.

When Joice Mu­juru, a war vet­eran and Mu­gabe’s deputy of 10 years, was sacked from the rul­ing party in 2014, the mil­i­tary re­mained quiet.

Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts, how­ever, say the mil­i­tary stayed quiet then be­cause the ben­e­fi­ciary of Mu­juru’s down­fall was the 75-year-old Mnan­gagwa, a war vet­eran.

Grace, now poised to be­come a vice pres­i­dent, did not fight in the lib­er­a­tion war.

The party ap­pears split over the suc­ces­sion with the G40 fac­tion supporting Grace and an­other fac­tion, that in­cludes war veter­ans, root­ing for the ousted Mnan­gagwa.

Chi­wenga said Zanu-PF had since 2015 been rocked by in­fight­ing, which had af­flicted the econ­omy, caus­ing se­ri­ous cash short­ages and soar­ing prices of ba­sic com­modi­ties – rare crit­i­cism of those in gov­ern­ment by the mil­i­tary.

An­a­lysts said if Mu­gabe re­sponded to Chi­wenga’s state­ment, he would be com­pelled to choose sides be­tween war veter­ans and the young turks ral­ly­ing be­hind his wife.

“He is in a corner. He has to de­clare his al­le­giance. If he con­demns that state­ment, then he is say­ing there­fore I am for the young turks against the war veter­ans,” said El­dred Ma­sunugure, a po­lit­i­cal sci­ence lec­turer at the Univer­sity of Zim­babwe.

“What we are wit­ness­ing is the mil­i­tary say­ing: ‘We are will­ing to in­ter­vene if the red line is crossed’. It is a warn­ing that the po­lit­i­cal class in Zanu-PF is about to cross that red line.” – Reuters

CON­STANTINO CHI­WENGA

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