PRESIDENT-ELECT Emmerson Mnangagwa lost at a polling station set up for soldiers from Pondoroza Barracks in Redcliff, Midlands province, during last week’s elections, in a development that has laid bare the strong anti-Mnangagwa sentiment in the military.
Since the 2017 military coup, the rank and file has complained that conditions of service have not improved in the face of devastating economic hardships.
Senior army officers are also said to be disgruntled over the shadowy group Forever Associates Zimbabwe (Fa) which covertly took over the running of the polls from the military.
Before the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) set up Tent A at an open space in Rutendo near the Pondoroza Barracks, which was exclusive for soldiers from the camp to vote at, sources said the military personnel had refused to vote inside the cantonment area.
Tent A was for Redcliff constituency’s Ward 1.
According to the results pasted at the polling station, opposition CCC leader Nelson Chamisa got 511 votes while Mnangagwa got 213.
At the same Tent A polling station, the CCC parliamentary candidate, Lloyd Mukapiko, polled 443 votes, beating the Zanu PF candidate July Moyo ,who got 282 votes.
There were two other makeshift polling booths set up for the civilian voters at the same location where, again, Mnangagwa fared dismally against Chamisa.
At Tent B, Chamisa got 362 and Mnangagwa 110, while at Tent C Chamisa polled 422 votes and Mnangagwa 106.
In February, parliamentarians cornered Felix Mhona, who at the time was the acting leader of government business in the National Assembly, and outgoing deputy Finance minister Clemence Chiduwa over an unfulfilled promise made to the military personnel in 2020 for the construction of garrison shops inside the barracks to serve soldiers with low-priced basic foodstuffs.
In a post-cabinet media briefing in Harare on 26 February 2020, outgoing Finance and Economic Development minister Mthuli Ncube said the cantonment shops would enable military personnel to be “issued with a card or credit limit to buy what they want monthly”.
At that time, Zimbabweans, particularly civil servants, were enduring one of the worst economic crises which was characterised by acute shortages of fuel, electricity, foreign currency and basic goods such as maize-meal as well as cooking oil.
Ncube’s promise to introduce the garrison shops was calculated at pacifying the soldiers who were increasingly becoming restive. Zimbabwe’s year-on-year inflation was as high as 525% at the time.
Two years before the promise, Ncube had introduced austerity measures he said were going to boost the economy. But his interventions turned out to be ruinous to public sector workers, including the military which helped Mnangagwa wrest power from long-time ruler Robert Mugabe in 2017.
Junior and middle-ranked military personnel, who had hoped to be rewarded for this, were left grumbling as their economic hardships mounted, with no solution in sight.
However, by the time Zimbabwe went to the polls last week, the government had not opened the promised garrison shops, with analysts citing this as the reason for Mnangagwa’s significant losses at the army polling station.
The army is the primary branch of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces responsible for land-oriented military operations. It is the largest service branch under the Zimbabwean Joint Operations Command (Joc).
However, as reported by The NewsHawks last week, tension between the top echelons in the army and the spy agency, the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), which ran Faz, is likely to escalate after the elections as Mnangagwa plans to consign the military to the barracks.
Even before the polls, Mnangagwa had long orchestrated a plan to confine the army to the barracks and prop up the influence of the CIO which runs Faz through its deputy director-general, Walter Tapfumaneyi.
After the 2018 elections, Mnangagwa was largely seen to have diminished the influence of the military which those close to him say he felt was holding him hostage after catapulting him to the country’s top post.
Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, then commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, led the 2017 military coup which paved the way to Mnangagwa’s ascendancy.
Chiwenga went on to swap his military fatigues for civilian power and was appointed Vice-President although his relationship with Mnangagwa was widely seen to have deteriorated over the years over unresolved succession issues.
Although Mnangagwa has rung the changes within the military, removing some of Chiwenga’s loyalists and key players in the execution of the coup such as retired Lieutenant-General Anslem Sanyatwe, he still does not fully trust the military hence his move to confine them to the barracks.
Sanyatwe is now Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Tanzania.
Government officials said if Mnangagwa p4oceeds to form the next government, even on the back of disputed elections, the army will be compelled to accept the new structure.
The CIO secretly took over from the military the running of the national elections early this year in a move calculated at manipulating the process in favour of Mnangagwa and Zanu PF.
This role had always been stealthily managed by the military for many years.
Faz displaced the army’s structure called Heritage that used to perform a similar role and other functions. In 2018, the army ran elections through Heritage and Africom, a converged communications services provider.
Faz liaised with Zanu PF, government institutions and electoral agencies on behalf of Mnangagwa and his party to ensure his will prevailed.
This was largely informed by the need to counter a growing fear of “bhora musango” or internal sabotage.
Although it is not a constitutional government body but a ghostly CIO operational structure, Faz was funded through state resources.
It was given up to US$10 million in public funds, over 200 vehicles and a number of CIO officers were seconded to the group to coordinate its activities to run elections for Mnangagwa and Zanu PF. Its personnel were surreptitiously paid in United States dollars outside the official government payroll.
Tapfumaneyi, a retired brigadier-general, runs Faz and reports directly to Mnangagwa.
As part of election campaigns, Faz sent out a large contingent of security operatives to the ground across the country to mobilise votes for Mnangagwa and Zanu PF.
The army campaigned for Mnangagwa but in a marginal way.
The Faz structures went around the country holding meetings, mobilising people and putting in place logistics for Mnangagwa’s election campaigns.
Legal experts say the channeling of public resources to the CIO’s shadowy structure, Faz, is unconstitutional.
Faz’s mandate, working together with Zec and its chair Priscilla Chigumba, was to coordinate logistics and decisive forces to retain Mnangagwa in power.
This has rattled the army which was previously in charge. One military commander previously described Faz as a “potential Frankenstein monster” during a conversation with a colleague.
“Faz, which is a CIO structure, has taken over the running of elections within Zanu PF and nationally,” a source said.
“It is run by Tapfumaneyi and is answerable to the President. It is a dangerous arrangement as this creature, which we don’t even understand, may end up being a Frankenstein monster.”
The army and CIO have ongoing fierce rivalry which heightened during the coup in 2017. One CIO senior officer, Peter Munetsi, was killed by the army during the coup.
The situation is worsened by Zanu PF factionalism and an explosive power struggle over the party’s unsettled leadership succession.
Since the removal of Mugabe, the leadership question has not been fully addressed, hence occasional eruptions of the problem; with the deadly manifestation of the issue being the White City grenade attack in Bulawayo in June 2018.
In his vigorous power consolidation process, Mnangagwa has purged nearly all key members of the coup coalition in a subtle coup-proofing strategy.
This has left him relatively unchallenged. Even though Mnangagwa won at congress last October, those aligned to Vice-President Chiwenga say the succession battle is not yet over.
Sources said Chiwenga is bitter because Mnangagwa hoodwinked him as they had initially agreed he was going to serve one term and hand over power to his deputy or any other candidate from the army to become state president, subject to elections.
However, in the endgame, Mnangagwa, a natural schemer from the days of Mugabe, has planned to shrink the influence of the military and rule with increased collaboration of the CIO if he dribbles past the current challenges to the poll results.
The CCC is demanding fresh elections since the Southern African Development Community and international election observer missions have condemned the election process that saw people voting in the dead of night after Zec failed to avail ballots in opposition strongholds.