Mujuru and the militarisation of state

Source: Mujuru and the militarisation of state – The Zimbabwe Independent April 22, 2016

THIS is the fourth instalment in a series of articles which constitute an introduction to a book to be published this month under the title Zimbabwe: The Challenges of Democratisation and Economic Recovery, edited by Dr Mandaza.

Ibbo Mandaza,Academic

The following statement by Sydney Sekeremayi, the then Minister of State for National Security, constitutes an apt summary of the origins and development of the Zimbabwean state and its “national security” mantra.

“May I take this opportunity to urge you to remain steadfast against the rhetoric and cheap propaganda by retrogressive forces about the need for security reforms in Zimbabwe. Our security establishment is very professional. The British Military Advisory and Training Team left the country in 2001 after a 20-year stint with our army. They did not complain then, why now? In the same vein, the President’s Department held various exchange programmes with other Western intelligence services, among them CIA (the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency), BND (Germany intelligence) and M16 (British intelligence).”

Second, the role of General Solomon Mujuru and the former Zanla guerilla army in sustaining both the military-security factor that underpins the “national security” axis and the ideological rhetoric (of the liberation struggle) which seeks to legitimise it ad nauseam. Mujuru (nom de guerre, Rex Nhongo) had been instrumental in having Robert Mugabe accepted by the Zanla guerillas as head of Zanu, after almost two years (1975-1976) of virtual “house arrest” (together with Edgar Tekere) in Quelimane, some 1 547km north from Maputo.

Not only Mozambican President Samora Machel and other Frontline States leaders like Julius Nyerere and Kenneth Kaunda, but also the guerilla leaders themselves, deemed Mugabe unsuitable and unacceptable as leader of Zanu and Zanla during those days. But Mujuru made it his objective to have Mugabe gradually accepted as head of Zanu: he kept contact with Mugabe and Tekere, by driving under the stealth of night to Quelimane and on many occasions during that period, a journey that would take 20 hours, to and from; and it was through the consultation that the two nationalists were kept abreast about the war effort, including, presumably, the balance of forces among and between the guerillas themselves, until the circumstances for their arrival in Maputo and subsequent participation in the Geneva Conference on Zimbabwe in October 1976, with Mugabe now de facto head of Zanu, a position to be confirmed at Chimoio, Mozambique, in 1977Reference has already been made to Josiah Tongogara’s pre-eminence as Chief of Defence and Security in Zanla, and the extent to which these functions by nature rendered the national liberation movement virtually subservient to the military-security factor. No doubt, the last phase of the struggle, 1977 to 1980, would have been one characterised by a tension, albeit a benign one, between Tongogara and Mugabe . But Mujuru would have quietly mediated throughout, until he succeeded (as Chief of Defence and Security) Tongogara with the latter’s untimely death on December 26 1979 on the eve of Independence.

Throughout the three months ceasefire period that preceded Independence in April 1980, during the transition that saw the three armies (Rhodesia, Zanla and Zpira) integrated into the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA), and even up to the 2008 elections when their relations deteriorated alarmingly, Mujuru remained both Mugabe’s indispensable source of strength for the power base that he wields to this day and the anchor on the basis of which the Zanla military-security factor was sustained and developed as an integral component of the securocrat state. Together with Josiah Tungamirai and Vitalis Zvinavashe, Mujuru had established a strong Zanla chore within the Zimbabwean defence and security forces; and all three, in conjunction with those of their Zanu who were in the first cabinet at Independence, sought to ensure that the legacy of the national liberation struggle would continue to inveigh, if not sustain, the state well into the 1990s and, to some extent, to this day.

It was also Mujuru, who was instrumental in the promotion and appointment of the second tier (in the hierarchy of Zanla) of former guerillas that subsequently succeeded him: Tungamirai and Zvinavashe, Constantine Chiwenga (the current Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF), Perrence Shiri as the Commander of the Air Force, Augustine Chihuri as Commissioner-General of the Zimbabwe Republic Police, Paradzai Zimondi as head of the Prisons and Correctional Services and Happyton Bonyongwe as the Director-General of CIO.

Also, the “militarisation” — through the infusion of former Zanla from the ZNA (for example, Bonyongwe in 2002) — of the CIO itself is attributed largely to Mujuru as he sought to reproduce the structure so central to Zanla during the liberation struggle in which the military-security complex developed into an integrated force under his invisible hand. Similarly, the development of the war veterans association as part of the state apparatus consisting of a chore of former guerillas whose numbers are fast depleting naturally, a corterie of war collaborators, former political prisoners and detainees, the war veterans have been integral to the process through which the defence and security infrastructure has developed and strengthened. As former or serving military and security functionaries, many of them would have been party to the operations and massacres associated with Gukurahundi and, likewise, the violence that accompanied some aspects of the fast-track land reform exercise at the turn of the century.

The war veterans have been until recently a major political weapon in the armory of Zanu PF and its state since 2000, especially during all the elections since then, as their political and combative role had almost become indispensable to the disputed outcomes of the poll in 2002, 2005 and especially 2008 and 2013. In the latter role in particular, the war veterans have been an extension of the military-security establishment under the virtual command and direction of the defence and security chiefs at KGVI military headquarters and remunerated accordingly possibly “out of the budget of the Office of the President and Cabinet”, an open-ended facility that enjoys both a disproportionate chunk of the national budget and is beyond the scrutiny of audit and parliament.

Not surprisingly, given its conflation with the (Zanu PF) party and state, the war veterans association appears to be splintering and disintegrating as the force it has been over the last three decades, under the weight of the current implosion afflicting the establishment.

Apparently, the war veterans association is now split between the various factions within Zanu PF, while another portion of it is angling towards the new Zimbabwe People First, led by Joice Mujuru, the former vice-president who was purged along with many others, including war veterans and former military and security chiefs, in the political tsunami that has been raging through the ruling party and its state. So far, the most significant component of the war veterans is that which, over the last decade, has been associated with, if not also commandeered from KGVI, the latter being also the euphemism for both the purported nerve centre of the Zimbabwean state and Chiwenga, until recently, the apparent power base for the besieged Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and such of his allies as Christopher Mutsvangwa.

Clearly, with Solomon Mujuru’s decline in influence since 2008 and, ultimately his death in August 2011, the security-military complex has been centred around Mugabe and a State House headed by his family members and loyalists and, combining within it, selected elements from the army, military intelligence, the Presidential Guard and CIO. This has been the weapon behind the Grace Mugabe tsunami over the period since late 2014. Conversely, Solomon Mujuru’s exit from both the military-security complex over which he superintended till 2008, and the political sphere in which he was a senior member of the Zanu PF politburo until his death, also marked the beginning of the end for his wife Joice’s fortunes in the Zanu PF party and state.

However, it is significant that the second tier of the leadership of the guerilla struggle — at one time, and for that matter, all of Solomon Mujuru’s products and protégés — have remained in office as heads of the defence and security services to this day. And in all five cases — Chiwenga, Shiri, Chihuri, Zimondi and Bonyongwe — well in excess of the two-term periods specified under the constitution and the Defence Act. A fair indication of the contrived and, perhaps, even tenuous bases under which the liberation struggle mantra continues to inveigh the securocrat state. Time will soon tell whether, given the vagaries of the party/state as evidenced in the role of the First Lady and the accompanying succession battles around Mugabe, Zimbabwe is fast entering the final stages of the securocrat state as the current members of the military-security complex leadership are either purged, retired or replaced.

Certainly, whether by design or coincidence the Grace Mugabe tsunami appears intent on casting aside almost all of those associated with the liberation struggle era, as a pre-requisite for a presumed, if not also imagined, dispensation. Whatever the outcome of the current succession debacle in the Zanu PF party and state, herein lies the death throes of the latter, including even those, like the First Lady, who appear now to have the upper hand; and the possibilities and prospects for political and economic reform, as elaborated in the following sections.

Decline of cabinet rule

An obvious consequence of the over-emphasis and concentration on the security requirements of a securocrat state has been the relegation of socio-economic imperatives, as the policy framework itself became increasingly distorted, amorphous, inconsistent in import and even contradictory and uncoordinated. This was, in turn, an outcome of a process whereby the collective responsibility so central to cabinet rule became subservient to the priorities of “national security”.

In the 1980s, the cabinet system followed very closely the Westminister model, and the inherited Rhodesian personnel remained in office long enough into post-Independence to ensure continuity of best practices in this regard.

Besides, the cabinet which met weekly every Tuesday at 8.45am to 12.45pm, with the requisite agenda and accompanying documentation for the day, there were also several cabinet committees which fed systematically into the main cabinet. The most important of these was the Cabinet Committee on Development which was chaired by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development and constituted the main crucible for economic and social policy throughout most of the 1980s and well into the era of the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (Esap) in the early 1990s.

In addition to the inputs from the various ministers and their ministries, these cabinet committees were essential to the information and data collection necessary as a pre-requisite for the interaction that constitute policy formulation and, ultimately, the policy framework itself. The latter is meant to reflect and reinforce the collective that is cabinet rule, inform and influence leadership within the state, and help to enhance the legitimacy of the latter and its ideological superstructure that is public policy. This also constitutes the interface between the executive and legislature, as the necessary process towards a public policy framework for the nation.

References to three issues will suffice in illustrating the decline of both cabinet rule and the policy framework during the era of securocracy. First, the gradual devaluation of the principle of “ ministerial responsibility” and the consequent erosion of “collective responsibility” within a cabinet rule system that therefore became, from 2000 onwards, more a formality than a forum for robust interaction towards informed policy decisions. As such, the president appointed his ministers less on the criterion of suitability and/or qualifications for the post, than as an exercise in patronage and the expectation of unbridled loyalty to the president, head of state and government and Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces.

With the passage of time, critical issues of policy were made less in cabinet than between the president and the individual minister responsible for the sector: sometimes after the cabinet meeting itself, as ministers queue with their files outside the president’s office, to have their respective matter cleared, far from the glare and scrutiny of collective responsibility. At other times, president and minister will meet as circumstances or expediency demands, to deliberate and decide upon a policy issue that might have otherwise been rejected in cabinet.

Against this background, the cabinet committees have become redundant, if not also itinerant and irrelevant; and the Cabinet Committee on Development which, in the 1980s certainly met monthly, now convenes annually. Likewise, the cabinet meetings themselves, confides a minister, are occasions for tea-drinking; so irregular as to be inconsequential, especially when, in the absence of the president, who is a regular traveller and is away for the festive holiday season in the Far East for close to two months every year, there are no cabinet meetings; and, in recent years, there have been reports about the old man falling asleep during meetings of an institution that would otherwise be the apex of governance in any modern state.

Dr Mandaza is a Zimbabwean academic, author and publisher. He is currently the convener of the Sapes Trust’s Policy Dialogue Forum.


  • comment-avatar
    Chibhabhase wa Jiti 6 years ago

    Is it the reason rumour has it that Chatunga is undergoing military training in North Korea?

    So that when he comes back he becomes Commander Defense Forces, the position currently held by Chiwenga?