A Cabinet minister has inadvertently revealed that President Robert Mugabe will use the army if his continued rule is threatened in the 2018 elections as infighting continues to weaken the ruling party.
By Everson Mushava
Mugabe early this year revealed that he survived after an embarrassing defeat in the first round of the 2008 presidential election at the hands of MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai after the army intervened.
Hundreds of MDC-T supporters were killed and several were displaced in the electoral violence that followed the veteran ruler’s defeat and put Zimbabwe on the international spotlight for the wrong reasons.
Psychomotor minister Josaya Hungwe told a recent Zanu PF inter district meeting in Masvingo that the ruling party would not hesitate to resort to such tactics if its rule came under threat.
Hungwe, who is believed to be part of a Zanu PF faction loyal to Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, was one of the people who addressed the meeting held at Masvingo Polytechnic College two weeks ago.
The meeting was reportedly attended by Masvingo provincial minister Shuvai Mahofa, Zanu PF chief whip Lovemore Matuke and provincial commissar Jeppy Jaboon, among others.
“Yes, we can go to war. We can hire our army… our soldiers can come in to help us. We will never allow opposition political parties to rule this country,” the minister was recently quoted by a Masvingo provincial weekly newspaper, Tell Zimbabwe.
“We are going to have President Mugabe as our candidate in 2018 and his succesors must have war credentials.”
Hungwe constantly quoted the Bible as he reminded party members of how a senior army official helped Zanu PF in the run-up to the June 2008 presidential election run-off campaign.
“Don’t forget what Major General Rugeje [Engelbert] did in Masvingo in 2008. We can call him again in 2018,” he threatened, while mocking ex-party members, notably former Energy minister Dzikamai Mavhaire, who defected to former vice-president Joice Mujuru’s Zimbabwe People First.
“We must make sure that People First does not win… this is very Biblical because it started in the Bible where the army was being hired to defend the king.
“In our case, President Mugabe is our king, hence, the need to use soldiers to defend him and his party.”
Hungwe was not picking calls since Monday last week and had by last night not responded to text messages.
However, acting Masvingo provincial chairperson Amasa Nenjana tried to downplay the gravity of the minister’s threats.
Nenjana said Hungwe had only said the army would be unleashed in the event of foreign invasion.
“He was referring to foreign invasion. He said the duty of the soldiers was to protect everyone, including the president,” Nenjana said, struggling to justify what triggered reference to the army.
“Soldiers protect the country and this means the people and their leader.
“He only referred to [senior military officials] when he was saying if the country is invaded, we turn to the soldiers, pointing to him because he is a soldier.”
But party sources who attended the meeting said Hungwe’s threats were directed at opposition supporters, among them former Zanu PF members.
“He even threatened to unleash the army if the going gets tough in the Bikita West by-election, saying it was within the powers of the Karanga people to retain the seat,” a source who attended the meeting said.
According to the source, Hungwe, who is considered to be the Zanu PF Masvingo godfather, has been clashing with party members for imposing Chief Fortune Charumbira and Major General Rugeje — all believed to be aligned to the Team Lacoste faction as the provincial bigwigs behind him in the hierarchy.
“He has of late been using Major General Rugeje to distribute inputs to villagers, bypassing the MPs. The issue is causing friction because both Chief Charumbira and Major Gen Rugeje are not in the Zanu PF hierarchy, but are being preferred by Hungwe because they are Mnangagwa loyalists to counter G40,” the source added.
Zimbabwe National Army spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Alphios Makotore declined to comment on the matter, referring questions to Zimbabwe Defence Forces spokesperson Colonel Overson Mugwisi.
Contacted for comment, Mugwisi said: “We could have commented if he had claimed that the Zimbabwe Defence Forces said it, not his personal opinions.”
Zanu PF has already endorsed Mugabe as its sole candidate for the 2018 polls when he will be 94.