Army sends Mu­gabe a warn­ing

Bangkok Post - - WORLD -

HARARE: Zim­babwe’s top mil­i­tary com­man­der waded into an es­ca­lat­ing feud within the coun­try’s gov­ern­ing party on Mon­day, is­su­ing a rare warn­ing to Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe.

“When it comes to mat­ters of pro­tect­ing our rev­o­lu­tion, the mil­i­tary will not hes­i­tate to step in,” the com­man­der, Gen Con­stan­tine Chi­wenga, who leads the Zim­babwe De­fence Forces, said in what amounts to an ex­tra­or­di­nary in­ter­ven­tion in the coun­try’s pol­i­tics.

Gen Chi­wenga was re­fer­ring to the armed strug­gle that con­trib­uted to the in­de­pen­dence of Zim­babwe in 1980 from Bri­tain, fol­low­ing a pe­riod of white rule.

Al­though not a mil­i­tary com­man­der him­self, Mr Mu­gabe, 93, was a leader in that strug­gle. Lately, how­ever, the po­lit­i­cal party he helped found, Zanu-PF, has purged sev­eral vet­er­ans of the strug­gle, in­clud­ing for­mer vice-pres­i­dent Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa, whom Mr Mu­gabe abruptly fired last week in a move that was widely seen as clear­ing the path for Mr Mu­gabe’s wife, Grace, as a pos­si­ble suc­ces­sor. Grace Mu­gabe, 52, was a teenage stu­dent dur­ing the strug­gle.

“There is dis­tress, trep­i­da­tion and de­spon­dence within the na­tion,” Gen Chi­wenga said. “Our peace-lov­ing peo­ple, who have stood by their govern­ment and en­dured some of the most try­ing so­cial and eco­nomic con­di­tions ever ex­pe­ri­enced, are ex­tremely dis­turbed by what is hap­pen­ing within the ranks of the na­tional revo­lu­tion­ary party.”

He said the Zanu-PF had been un­der­mined by “gos­sip­ing, back­bit­ing and pub­lic chas­tise­ment” since 2015, and added, “In­deed, the party is un­do­ing its legacy built over the years”.

Flanked by some 90 se­nior mil­i­tary com­man­ders, Mr Chi­wenga ad­dressed jour­nal­ists at army head­quar­ters. He took no ques­tions.

It was a bold in­ter­ven­tion, said Stephen Chan, a pro­fes­sor of world pol­i­tics at the School of Ori­en­tal and African Stud­ies, Univer­sity of Lon­don, and all the more ex­tra­or­di­nary be­cause Mr Chi­wenga de­nounced “the cur­rent shenani­gans by peo­ple who do not share the same lib­er­a­tion his­tory of Zanu-PF”, an in­di­rect but pointed ref­er­ence to Grace Mu­gabe and her ally Jonathan Moyo.

“It sets the stage for a show­down,” Mr Chan said. “Mu­gabe may have to con­tem­plate two op­tions: Invit­ing Mnan­gagwa back into the govern­ment, or fac­ing down the gen­er­als.”

The gen­eral’s state­ment stopped short of di­rectly crit­i­cis­ing Robert Mu­gabe, ar­gu­ing that one of his slo­gans — “Zim­babwe will never be a colony again” — was be­ing “se­ri­ously chal­lenged by coun­ter­rev­o­lu­tion­ary in­fil­tra­tors”.

This is not the first time the mil­i­tary has in­ter­vened in pol­i­tics.

In 2008, af­ter the first round of elec­tions in which the Move­ment for Demo­cratic Change, an op­po­si­tion party led by Mor­gan Ts­van­gi­rai, won at the polls, the mil­i­tary warned that it would not al­low lead­ers with­out lib­er­a­tion-war cre­den­tials to take power, and 200 peo­ple died in a state-spon­sored crack­down on the op­po­si­tion.

Mr Ts­van­gi­rai did not par­tic­i­pate in the runoff, but he served as prime min­is­ter from 2009 to 2013, as part of a pow­er­shar­ing deal.

Mr Mu­gabe’s party re­gained full con­trol in 2013 elec­tions that were widely seen as rigged.

AFP

Zim­babwe Army Gen Con­stan­tine Chi­wenga has de­manded a “stop” to the purge in the rul­ing Zanu-PF party.

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