RETIRED Brigadier-General Fidelis Satuku was a man persecuted in life and death.
The veteran of Zimbabwe’s liberation war, a decorated military commander and strategist, was buried quietly, away
from the public glare, at his farm in Odzi about 60 kilometres from Mutare on Wednesday, nine days after his death.
Just as he was denied a promotion to the rank of major-general on retirement in 2015, a well-established norm in the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Satuku was also denied national hero status, in a case of vindictiveness.
The norm in the army has been that brigadier-generals who are war veterans are buried at the National Heroes’ Acre.
Instead, Satuku was belatedly declared a provincial hero this week, the same status as celebrated Zim dancehall musician Soul Jah Love, who was a well-known drug addict even though he was immensely talented.
The musician died in February this year and was buried at the Harare Provincial Heroes’ Acre in Warren Park.
Military officials who spoke to The NewsHawks this week said he was not forgiven for his 6 January 2010 meeting with then United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Charles Ray.
Ray had also met Brigadier-General Herbert Chingono a day earlier.
In the separate meetings, Satuku and Chingono described Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, who was the commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces at the time, as a political general with little knowledge of military matters.
They further revealed that he had serious political ambitions and visualised himself occupying political office once his tenure as the ZDF chief comes to an end, in a dossier later made public by Wikileaks.
“If the two officers were not prophetic, then they knew Chiwenga very well. What they said about him has come to pass,” said a retired military officer who spoke to The NewsHawks.
“The 2017 military coup proved beyond doubt that Chiwenga was indeed a military general. The fact that he is now the vice-president and has ambitions to be the president also vindicates the two generals. They were accurate in their assessment. Who can stand here today and argue that Satuku and Chingono were wrong, although of course they paid the price when the discussion was leaked?
“Satuku was sharp intellectually and highly regarded in the Zimbabwe Defence Forces. He was known as a professional soldier and commander. He was the absolute epitome of professionalism and was apolitical. There is no question about his hero status; he is a national hero and those that denied him the status know that very well.”
A military source says Satuku was hounded out of the army in 2015 and was denied “a rank up” on resignation.
“Thereafter he was largely neglected although he was battling a kidney ailment. Some officers close to him pleaded with the bosses on his behalf after learning of his plight, resulting in him being sent to India for treatment last year.
On return, he thanked Chiwenga as he moved to build bridges, resulting in an improvement in relations,” an officer said.
“He died in a military hospital, an indication that relations had improved, but the fact that he was denied national hero status means he was never forgiven. Everyone though knows his attributes.”
Under Chiwenga, the ZDF was also known to assist Zanu PF and the then president Robert Mugabe in elections. In
2008, for example, the army took over the Zanu PF campaign after Mugabe lost the first round of the presidential elections to MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
The army unleashed violence and terror countrywide, targeting Tsvangirai’s supporters, resulting in the MDC-T leader pulling out of the polls. In 2013, the army also provided logistical support to Zanu PF ahead of and during the elections.
Military officials say although Chiwenga, President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the ZDF sent condolence messages to the Satuku family, a recommendation for national hero status made through the war veterans was ultimately turned down.
After more than a week without the authorities telling the family his status, the government on Tuesday belatedly declared him a provincial hero, but his family chose to bury him at his farm rather than the Manicaland Provincial Heroes’ Acre in Mutare.
In discussions with US ambassador Ray, the commanders told the diplomat that: “The Commander of the Defence
Forces, General Constantine Chiwenga, is a political general who works hard, but who has very little practical military experience or expertise.
A political commissar before 1980, he has only attended one mid-level training course, which he did not complete.
“If given a choice between a military and a political issue, he routinely defaults to the political. His goal is to be in politics when his tenure ends as defence chief, and he will be very disappointed if he fails to achieve that goal.
“He has been given to making political statements. This has caused some Zanu PF politicians to be suspicious of him,
and he was chastised by Mugabe for being too ‘political’.”
The diplomatic cable indicates that “both officers stressed Chiwenga’s political ambitions repeatedly”.
Satuku, who worked directly under Chiwenga at the Defence ministry, said that “he is hardworking, coming to his office at 7.30am and staying until 10 at night, but he spends his time on political issues”.
Chingono revealed Chiwenga once called a meeting of senior officers that started at 10am and went on until 9.30pm,
which discussed economics and politics, “but not once did a military issue come up”.
Satuku, whose Chimurenga name was George Mackenzie, died at the Military Hospital in Mutare on Monday after suffering from kidney complications.
He was born in 1957 in Nyamaropa, Nyanga.
He went to Kambudzi Primary School and later enrolled at Emmanuel Mission Ruwange where he did his secondary education from 1973 to 1976, before abandoning studies to join the liberation struggle.
With other pupils, Satuku crossed the border into Mozambique to join Zanla forces.
Satuku was later integrated into the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) in June 1980 as a major.
In October of the same year, he was seconded to the United Nations to understudy the commanders of the First Battalion Welsh Guards and Pirbright.
On his return, he held various appointments in the ZNA until 2015 when he retired from service.
— STAFF WRITER.