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Unsettled Mnangagwa loses trust in lieutenants

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FAILURE by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to fill key vacant posts of vice-president and state security minister signals that he has lost trust in his lieutenants as he seeks to maintain a delicate ethnic balance in his administration, analysts have said.

Former vice-president Kembo Mohadi resigned on 1 March 2021 following the exposure of his sex scandals.

In January this year, Mnangagwa fired his Kwekwe clansman Owen “Mudha” Ncube who was State Security minister. In relieving Ncube, Mnangagwa said the move was because of “conduct inappropriate for a minister of government”.

Ncube was accused of being the architect of violent campaigns in Zanu PF in the Midlands ahead of intra-party polls as he eyed the top provincial post. Ncube’s orgies of violence had angered Mnangagwa’s allies who helped him stage a military coup in 2017.

Over a year has since passed with the post of vice-president vacant.

Rashweat Mukundu, a prominent political analyst, said the reality that Mnangagwa is concentrating more duties on himself means he no longer trusts that his lieutenants can serve well at his pleasure.

“While it may save the national purse (salaries and perks for vice-president and state security minister), what this means is that ED is increasingly distrustful of those who surround him hence a concentration of power in his hands which ultimately results in a leader being surrounded by sycophants and praise singers,” he said.

Mukundu highlighted that Mnangagwa, in order to secure his power, had resorted to entrenching people from his Masvingo hone province in key government and Zanu PF positions.

“There has been a notable tribal power shift in most government and party positions, an example being the recent youth league congress in which another Karanga from Masvingo was forced into the youth leadership.”

“This is not to say anyone must be discriminated based on tribe, but Zanu PF and government has essentially become a Masvingo, Midlands and Karanga enclave,” said Mukundu.

President Mnangagwa’s rural home is in Mapanzure, Masvingo province, while he also owns Precabe Farm in Sherwood, near the Midlands city of Kwekwe and another piece of land in Mvuma where there is extensive farming.

Mnangagwa’s first attempt at maintaining a grip on power was when he deployed key military personnel as ambassadors such as major-general Douglas Nyikayaramba who was chief of staff in the army during the 2017

coup. He again gave brigadier-general Anselem Sanyatwe an ambassadorial post. Sanyatwe was the commander of the presidential guard during the coup and was responsible for military deployments that killed 17 people during the 1 August 2018 protests where opposition supporters demonstated in central Harare against a delay in the announcement of presidential election results.

The parallel tabulation of the presidential vote by the then MDC-Alliance had projected that their leader Nelson Chamisa, who now leads the Citizens’ Coalition for Change, had beaten President Mnangagwa in the polls by a 60% plus margin.

In 2020 and in a move understood to have been made to coup-proof his regime, Mnangagwa shuffled commanders of the Presidential Guard (PG), the infantry battalion which paired with the Mechanised Brigade in removing the late president Robert Mugabe from power in 2017.

The PG, whose military personnel don yellow berets, is responsible for providing VVIP protection to the President and securing Harare.

The PG is trained for urban warfare.

It consists of two battalions, the 1 PG Battalion commonly known as State House Battalion and the 2 PG Battalion situated in Dzivaresekwa, a suburb on the outskirts of Harare.

At that time, Lieutenant-Colonel (Lt-Col) Chicha was made the commander of 2 PG Battalion, taking over from Lt-Col Regis Mangezi.

Lt-Col Mangezi was moved to command the 1 PG Battalion that had been led by Lt-Col Solomon Murombo who, according to a leaked call, clashed with First Lady

Auxillia Mnangagwa as she said he wanted to kill her.

Eldred Masunungure, a professor of political science at the University of Zimbabwe, said Mnangagwa was determined to hold on to power.

He said his move to fire state security minister Ncube was motivated by a desire to show power and send messages that he is not a lame duck.

He agreed that the country’s first citizen has failed the ethnic balance test.

“All empirical evidence is that Mugabe was more adept at performing ethnic arithmetic in both the party and the state, including the security sector. He would ensure that there is not only an ethnic balance but also a regional balance,” said Masunungure.

However, Masunungure warned against wishing away Zanu PF as a whole party at this stage.

“Anecdotal evidence and results of the March and early May by-elections tend to give the distinct impression that the ruling party is weaker than under Mugabe. However, we need to wait for more grounded research on this before rushing to make a determination,” he said.–STAFF WRITER.

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