Zimbabwe army chief warns Mugabe's party that military may intervene after sackings

Grace Mugabe talks to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa at a gathering of the ZANU-PF Politburo in 2016
Credit PHILIMON BULAWAYO  Reuters

Led by Defence Forces Commander General Constantino Chiwenga, Army chief Philip Valerio Sibanda, Airforce Acting boss Shebba Shumbayaonda, and defence head of administration Douglas Nyikayaramba among others, the military top brass demanded a stop to the power struggles in Zanu PF.

Chiwenga's remarks came after President Robert Mugabe last week fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, his political ally for more than 40 years, on allegations of disloyalty and deceit.

Analysts had warned that the sacking would spark repercussions beyond Mugabe's control.

But the 75-year-old former vice president has powerful military connections, having served as defence and state security minister.

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.

Mnangagwa - whose nickname is the "Crocodile" - defiantly told Mugabe that the party was "not personal property for you and your wife to do as you please". But it neither likes nor trusts his wife Grace, 52, and knows that much of the country also loathes her.

For her part, Mrs. Mugabe has dared the army to shoot her, calling for the military to stay out of politics.

Mugabe, the world's oldest president, is showing increasing signs of old age, but has refused to name his successor.

The choice of KGIV was also poignant for an unprecedented statement that can only be rivalled by late General Vitalis Zvinavashe's infamous "straight jacket' statement issued on the eve of the 2002 presidential election and credited with tipping the scales in Mugabe's favour against a popular opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai". 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.

"Members must go with equal opportunity to exercise their democratic rights", he said. He accused the party of expelling senior officials who participated in the 1970s war against white-minority ruled Rhodesia, saying "counter revolutionaries" are plotting to destroy the party.

The purging in the party had plunged the country into a crisis, he said.

He also urged some party members to stop denigrating the military as it was causing despondency within the rank and file.

Chiwenga said "instability" in the ruling party had caused "distress, trepidation and despondence".

The crisis had resulted in "cash shortages and rising commodity prices", he said.

But it started running out of those dollars and past year it introduced "bond notes", a parallel currency pegged to the United States dollar.

Zimbabwe in 2009 abandoned its own currency in favour of the USA dollar due to hyperinflation.

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