WITH the Zanu PF congress set to confirm that President Emmerson Mnangagwa has outsmarted Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, the late former president Robert Mugabe’s warning to the ex-military general amid the 2017 coup has now come to pass.
Mugabe (pictured) warned Chiwenga that Mnangagwa would use and dump coup leaders unless he seized power himself. Mugabe told journalists at his Borrowdale mansion on 15 March 2018 in his last interview that he warned Chiwenga that imposing Mnangagwa would end in grief as he would later purge coup plotters.
Mugabe advised Chiwenga to take over himself, but the then army commander balked, probably because a military man taking over would have gone against the propaganda that the military was not staging a coup.
After the coup, Mnangagwa, as Mugabe warned, went on to purge the coup leaders; dismantling the coalition that brought him to power. Chiwenga’s key military backers, who played a pivotal role in the coup, were kicked out of the army and Zanu PF, while he was battling a life-threatening illness in India and then China, amid poisoning fears. Among those removed were retired Lieutenant-General Anselem Sanyatwe, who commanded troops on the ground during the coup as Presidential Guard commander. Sanyatwe is Chiwenga’s personal friend and confidante.
Sanyatwe was retired alongside several commanders ahead of diplomatic assignments in February 2019.
These include the late Zimbabwe National Army chief-of-staff retired Lieutenant-General Douglas Nyikayaramba, who was chief-of-staff responsible for service personnel and logistics, retired Lieutenant-General Martin Chedondo and retired Air Marshal Sheba Shumbayawonda.
In June 2019, Mnangagwa then made another significant move by removing retired Lieutenant-General Engelbert Rugeje from the Zanu PF commissariat and replacing him with ally Victor Matemadanda, as he seized control of the party, while Chiwenga was incapacitated.
Most of Chiwenga’s factional allies have been removed, dumped and others have died mysteriously including the face of the coup, the late retired Leuitenant-General Sibusiso Moyo who was appointed Foreign Affairs minister after the coup.
Former Air Force of Zimbabwe commander Perrance Shiri, who was appointed Agriculture minister, also died of Covid-19 although his allies say he, like Moyo, was poisoned.
Mugabe told journalists, including The NewsHawks editors who then ran the Zimbabwe Independent, that when the coup struck he sent Roman Catholic priest Father Fidelis Mukonori to engage army commanders, including Chiwenga, but he later replaced him with his confidante Gideon Gono.
He said Mukonori had “sold out” as his role as emissary became compromised and biased in favour of the coup, hence Gono had to come into the process because “he was objective”.
Gono went to meet Chiwenga and other commanders at KGVI, now Josiah Magama Tongogara, Barracks, Harare.
As armoured vehicles, tanks and other army cars rolled on the streets enforcing the coup, Mugabe said he spoke to Chiwenga through Gono, telling him that he should just take over power as Mnangagwa was not reliable and would remove all his allies to consolidate power later.
Mugabe said Chiwenga refused to take over and even denied that he had staged a coup against him. Mugabe said Chiwenga denied the coup vehemently, saying he would never act against him as they had worked together for decades since the liberation struggle days in Mozambique. — STAFF WRITER