Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Mugabe’s generals lay out their plans for next year’s election

Mugabe’s generals lay out their plans for next year’s election


As Zimbabwe awaits the arrival of SADC’s tri-national support-team to assist 
with the process towards internationally accepted elections, the country’s 
generals are finalising their own plans to ensure a victory for President 
Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF.

The generals, most of them veterans of the guerrilla war that ended white 
rule in 1980, have been an integral part of the Zanu PF administration since 
it won power in the first democratic elections. But when Morgan Tsvangirai’s 
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) emerged as a serious electoral threat 
after 2002, they moved directly into all areas of government, creating a 
formal parallel administration in 2006, accountable through the National 
Security Council (NSC) directly to Mugabe. They have also moved, with Mugabe’s 
encouragement, directly into the administration and operation of Zanu PF, 
holding the line against possible compromise by the parliamentary party.

Since their 2008 failure, despite widespread violence and disruption, to 
prevent an MDC electoral victory they have operated as an informal 
opposition to the multiparty “inclusive government” forced on Zimbabwe by 
SADC. With Mugabe they have also marginalised the NSC – in which Tsvangirai 
serves – establishing in its place the non-statutory Joint Operations 
Command (JOC) as a shadow administration, competing for influence with the 
formal authorities in the multiparty “inclusive government”.

The JOC’s place in security force and civil government command and control 
is outlined in detail in the Profile: Zimbabwe security forces supplement 
published this week.

The generals remain openly antagonistic to Tsvangirai, refusing to 
acknowledge his legitimacy as prime minister and committed to preventing him 
winning presidential elections – he won the first round comfortably in 2008, 
but withdrew from the run-off poll after a security force-Zanu PF campaign 
of violence left nearly 300 dead and thousands displaced or forced into 

The violence came too late to prevent MDC securing a parliamentary 
majority – but rescued Mugabe’s candidacy only at the last minute.

This time, the generals are preparing well in advance to avoid a repeat of 
2008. And although security force officers have played a direct role in 
election administration and campaigning for Zanu PF since 2002, at the next 
elections they intend to entirely replace Zanu PF officials and 
office-bearers, particularly in the highly contested provinces of Masvingo 
(lost to Tsvangirai in 2008) and Manicaland.

At the centre of the military web is former Air Force of Zimbabwe head, Air 
Vice-Marshall Henry Muchena, who retired in December to take up the 
innocuous-sounding position of director of the Commissariat in Zanu PF. He 
is coordinating the generals’ strategy to manage the election (the generals 
continue to insist elections will take place this year, in line with a Zanu 
PF resolution, although both Mugabe and Zanu PF have privately acknowledged 
that presidential, parliamentary and provincial polling will only be 
possible in 2012 at the earliest).

The strategy involves an integrated, pre-emptive campaign of military 
intimidation and mobilisation of paramilitary youth formations (notionally 
through the Zanu PF Youth wing) for deployment against MDC centres of 
electoral strength. The objective is to disrupt MDC electoral mobilisation 
and to intimidate its supporters either into staying away or, preferably, 
into voting Zanu PF. With MDC support running nationally at nearly three 
times that of Zanu PF this is a tall ask, particularly with control of the 
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) now contested through the appointment 
earlier this year of several independent or MDC-aligned commissioners (see 
SAR Vol 29 No 18).

The months before the elections will be difficult for rural Zimbabweans, 
particularly in Masvingo and Manicaland provinces – designated “battleground 
provinces” in the situational analysis on which the strategy is based. The 
generals believe pre-emptive action can regain Masvingo and consolidate in 
Manicaland, giving Mugabe a fighting chance to retain the presidency.

Muchena’s deputy in the Zanu PF Commissariat,  Kizito Kuchekwa – a Zanu PF 
representative on the multiparty Joint Monitoring and Implementation 
Commission (Jomic) on which SADC is placing substantial reliance – privately 
acknowledges the need to “throw it all” at the two contested provinces, 
while working actively to discourage support for MDC elsewhere.

The generals are in the process of deploying two senior officers in each 
administrative district in command of several non-commissioned and 
rank-and-file soldiers – given leave from the military on a semi-permanent 
basis – to coordinate non-military activity with that of the formal security 
force activity.

The military has also taken direct control of Zanu PF campaigning in 
Manicaland: Brigadier-General Douglas Nyikayaramba, commander of the army’s 
Mutare-based 3 Brigade last month blandly informed Zanu PF politburo member 
Didymus Mutasa that the army was taking over Zanu PF’s electoral campaign. 
With the future of Zimbabwe at stake, he told Mutasa, the army “cannot 
afford to leave the campaign exclusively to politicians who are weak and 

Mutasa’s sidelining is an indication of the extent of military control in 
Zanu PF: Mutasa is a Zanu PF heavy-weight. A former a liberation war 
commander, post-independence chair of Zanu PF, and one-time Minister of 
State Security, he is still a Cabinet Minister (Minister of State in the 
office of the President).

Nyikayaramba himself is no political lightweight: while purportedly on 
retirement he served as Chief Electoral Officer for the ZEC in 2002 
elections (the first MDC contested), when there was evidence of 
vote-rigging. His range of responsibilities is the definitive example of the 
breadth of the security forces’ reach: he chairs the board of the National 
Railways of Zimbabwe, and is the chief advisor to Zanu PF in the 
Parliamentary Constitutional Select Committee.

He first caught the public eye shortly after independence when Lieutenant 
Shepherd Nleya, an officer under his command in 1:2 Infantry Battalion in 
Hwange, was murdered after threatening to expose the involvement of 
Nyikayaramba and other senior commanders in contraband and illegal rhino 
horn smuggling on operations in Mozambique. The killing was a defining 
moment for the military, from which it arguably never recovered. 
Nyikayaramba and Brigadier Constantine Chiwenga were widely believed to have 
ordered the murder. The incident did not inhibit the career of either man: 
Chiwenga is currently head of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (the army and air 

Nyikayaramba is particularly blatant in his dislike for electoral democracy, 
telling journalists recently that he and others in the security services 
would do anything in their power to keep Mugabe in office.
By late last month, Brigadier-General David Manyika’s 4 Brigade began a 
series of marches and parades throughout central Masvingo, advertising their 
armed presence as an explicitly partisan force – MDC officials have 
complained that the troops have been singing pro-Zanu PF and pro-Mugabe 

A new element of Zanu PF’s electoral strategy is to incentivise youth 
support for the party by fast-tracking youth representation in the party’s 
leadership structures.

In the past liberation war veterans who dominate party structures have 
treated Zanu PF Youth and veterans of the National Youth Service as 

Retired Air Vice-Marshall Henry Muchena, who now heads the Zanu PF 
Commissariat and is coordinating the party’s military-created elections 
strategy, is driving a programme to revitalise the party by attracting young 
blood. He has already met youth representatives and has undertaken to 
promote the nomination of candidates under 30 in three Harare 

He is also campaigning for an enforced generational mix in the Zanu PF 
politburo – arguing for a quota of 40% of politburo members under the age of 


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