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Chiwenga passed on Zimbabwe presidency to Mnangagwa

by Itai Mushekwe, Spotlight Zimbabwe
20 Apr 2018 at 07:13hrs | Views
COLOGNE - First Vice President, Rtd General Constantino Chiwenga, all but practised political comradeship by refusing to backstab President Emmerson Mnangagwa, for the country's presidency, after being reportedly enticed by former leader Robert Mugabe and his  fallen G40 confederacy to replace him, a few hours after the military had announced an intervention to Mugabe's succession gridlock last November, Spotlight Zimbabwe, exclusively reported.

According to a former South African diplomat and impeccable sources close to the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC), Chiwenga turned down Mugabe's offer to take power, and also resisted high pressure from other hardline securocrats to impose himself as the new Commander in Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF), insisting that Mnangagwa, a Chinese trained military engineer, was better placed to manage the new transition and dispensation in Mugabe's political aftermath.

It has also come to light for the first time, that Chiwenga wanted to avoid military intervention from the African Union (AU) and Southern African Development Community (Sadc) when he launched Operation Restore Legacy, thus explaining why Mnangagwa was "invited" by Zanu PF from brief South African exile to come back home as interim party leader and president designate, to give a civilian face to the new leadership in Harare.

"The General (Chiwenga-now retired) did a very intelligent job," said the former South African envoy. "He knew that declaring himself president would mean a military putsch had taken place in Zimbabwe to the world, and that the AU and Sadc were going to possibly send troops to save Mugabe. In fact Mugabe had counted on our former president, Jacob Zuma, to come and reverse the situation, but it was too late as the Foreign Branch of the State Security Agency (South Africa's Intelligence Service), had been fully informed about Mugabe's ouster before it happened and that the military was not going to takeover government, by your military intelligence officials."
Mugabe last month told local media, that Pretoria could have done "much more" to save him politically during last year's dramatic event, which saw him lose power after almost four decades of unperturbed iron fist rule.

Mugabe said he indeed felt betrayed by Sadc, especially Zuma's administration, which had the capacity to intervene.

"South Africa could have done much more. It did not have to send an army, but just engage," Mugabe said.

Zuma sent his defence and security ministers to Harare on November 15, hours after the army took control of the country and placed Mugabe under under quasi house arrest. The nonagenarian added that Zuma's envoys "gave a false impression that all was okay, and that they had spoken not just to us but also the soldiers, and then gave out that there was no need for intervention".

OPC sources said Mugabe allegedly telephoned Chiwenga soon after retired army general and now foreign affairs minister, Sibusiso  Moyo, had made a statement on national television denying speculation of a military coup, maintaining that only criminals around Mugabe were being targeted. They said Mugabe had proposed that Chiwenga becomes president, but allow him to first tour the country to bid farewell to his supporters and introduce the vice president as his successor.

"It was a last minute attempt by G40 to buy political time, by trying to distract the military intervention that was going on, hoping that Chiwenga was going to easily accept their offer, but he refused saying that he was the military boss and would remain as such, comfortable in his uniform," the sources said. "It was a big blow, they had hoped that he might take advantage of Mnangagwa's ouster and isolation in South African exile. Furthermore, there was serious tension and mistrust as police had tried in vain to arrest Chiwenga upon his return from a scheduled trip in China last November. Mugabe had also tried to force Chiwenga to leave office some months earlier before the military intervention was launched, but Chiwenga's hardline allies in the military told him, that he could only step down as Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander for higher office, after Mugabe himself was first to leave office."

The OPC sources also said Chiwenga was wary of Mugabe's cunning political tricks, after he conned his predecessor, the late General Vitalis Zvinavashe to leave his powerful post, in return for promoting him to vice president, following the death of VP Simon Muzenda in 2004. Mugabe did not meet his end of the bargain, and Zvinavashe was thrown under the bus, in favour of Joice Mujuru.

"It is actually Mnangagwa who advised Chiwenga not to leave his powerful office, when he was defence minister in 2009. Their political and military relationship grew stronger during the days of the unity government between 2009 and 2013, which we believe were the crucial stages during which Mugabe's succession was plotted and executed behind closed doors in theory by the mysterious power brokers involved."

In perhaps an unintended tacit admission and confirmation that Chiwenga passed on the presidency to Mnangagwa, Retired Air Chief Marshal Perrance Shiri, this week in Mashonaland West, praised the VP for not seizing power but following due procedure during Operation Restore Legacy.

"General Chiwenga is the person who orchastrated Operation Restore Legacy. He is a principled man who does things in honesty," said Shiri. "If it was someone else, he could have taken over power, declaring that he was in charge. There was nothing that could have stopped him since he was in charge of the army. General Chiwenga is a person who is politically mature and with the people and country at heart. Due to political orientation, he understood that hove huru dzinofamba nemurongwa (leadership renewal follows laid down procedures). As a result, the party chose President Emmerson Mnangagwa to lead the party, while VP Chiwenga wanted to return to the barracks. However, President Mnangagwa appointed him Vice President and second secretary of the ruling Zanu PF party."

Spotlight Zimbabwe has been told that Chiwenga's VP appointment is all but political apprenticeship and preparation for his turn as boss at Munhumutapa Buildings soon.

Source - spotlight