The Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, General Constantine Chiwengwa, who recently graduated from the Open University of Zimbabwe with a Bachelor's degree has told Robert Mugabe that he intends to retire from the army and has demanded that he be appointed National Political Commissar for ZANU PF.
This position was previously held by Elliot Manyika, who died in a car accident about a month ago. Traditionally, Mugabe's patronage system has seen his party's Commissar appointed to government, first as Minister of Political Affairs and now, after complaints that taxpayers' money was being used to run ZANU PF, as Minister without Portfolio in the president's office.
There is now open talk in ZANU PF that Chiwengwa is eyeing the presidency itself and believes that becoming the National Political Commissar for ZANU PF would give him room to put provincial leaderships in place that would be sympathetic to his eventual candidacy for the presidency.
It is provincial leaders in ZANU PF who will eventually have much sway when it comes to voting for Mugabe's successor. Their positions will likely be the positions of their province as a whole. Whoever gets the most provincial chairmen on his side will then be guaranteed the presidency of ZANU PF and, they hope, the country.
You may recall that I told you in a previous article on this blog, entitled "Why Mugabe Will Never Face A Coup", that Mugabe has assimilated the army leadership so deeply into the structures of his party that they look at it (the party, ZANU PF), and not Mugabe, as the best guarantor of their fortunes. This just proves how true this is.
At the same time, the sources are also revealing that Chiwengwa has already been using the considerable power he has already to ensure that he puts a loyal coterie of people in the leadership of the armed forces in preparation for his retirement.
They point to the fact that Chiwengwa, as head of the Armed Forces in Zimbabwe, is the one who made recommendations to Mugabe which resulted in the recent elevation of a whole boatload of army officers to ranks ranging from Colonel to Brigadiers.
Sources in the army and ZANU PF are now saying it is significant that of all the top armed forces people elevated in this way, Perence Shiri, the Commander of the Air Force, was the only one who did not get a promotion to a higher rank. It is common knowledge within Mugabe's party that there is no love lost between these two high ranking Zimbabwe Armed forces leaders.
Insiders say Shiri's sidelining was a direct result of sabotage by Chiwengwa when he made his recommendations to Mugabe.
They claim that the dismissal of Shiri's recent "attempted assassination" as an attempted suicide was also part of efforts to generally paint him as unstable and unsuitable even for the office he holds now as Air Marshal and Commander of the Zimbabwe Air Force.
Chiwengwa apparently met Mugabe before Christmas and told him that, now that he had a degree, he felt that he was more qualified than anybody to take over as National Commissar. He is said to have said that his standing within the army also bolstered his claim to the National Commissar post.
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