The mass dismissal of top police officers on Thursday and the surprise about-turn by government, rehiring most of them less than 24 hours later, has exposed a possible rift and simmering conflict within President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government, The Standard has established.
By Everson Mushava
According to sources, the office of Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga (pictured right) allegedly ordered the mass dismissals without Mnangagwa’s approval or knowledge, resulting in the president overturning some of the terminations upon his return from a working visit in Zambia.
Sources within government said while Mnangagwa had authorised the firing of 11 top police officers, described as “retirements”, the number had been increased to 32 during his absence.
The Standard heard that the purges were earmarked to cascade to officers commanding provinces as the axe continues to fall on officials linked to the vanquished G40 faction in Zanu PF.
Since the firing and reinstatement saga last week, government has failed to give a satisfactory explanation about what transpired.
Presidential spokesperson George Charamba yesterday dismissed the “rift and conflict” allegations as wishful thinking by people who were too obsessed with conflict.
He, however, admitted Mnangagwa overturned the decision after realising it was done without following the proper procedure. He said the action appeared to be an overreaction to public disaffection with the police by the Police Service Commission chaired by Mariyawanda Nzuwa.
“We are dealing with security here. We don’t treat it like we are treating civilian structures,” Charamba said.
“Yes, it was done when the president was away and when he came back, he discovered we had thrown away the bath water with the child and corrective measures had to be taken.”
Charamba added: “As I speak, I am sitting with two more names which have been removed from the list — Erasmus Makodza and Douglas Nyakutsikwa. We are now down to nine. It was a well-meant move by the Police Service Commission, but spoiled by overreaction and the president, with his two deputies, reversed the decision.”
“They [Mnangagwa and Chiwenga] are all at one. The decision to reverse the dismissals was done by the president and his two deputies [Chiwenga and Kembo Mohadi]. We are actually out to evolve into a harmonious administration. Such allegations [of rift and conflict] are made by people who wish for us to go back to conflict,” Charamba said.
But government sources claim that Mnangagwa approved the firing of 11 senior officers only but an order was given to the Police Service Commission to retire all top police officers above 50 years of age.
It was not immediately clear who gave the order that was later reversed by Mnangagwa, but sources claim the directive came from Chiwenga’s office.
“It showed some sort of discord in government. But I think the problem was caused because the sacking of some police officers was done without the full knowledge and approval of the president who was away in Zambia,” a well-placed source in government claimed.
Initially, those who were reportedly shown the exit door included Deputy Commissioner-Generals Innocent Matibiri (Human resources), Levi Sibanda (Operations) and Josephine Shambare Crime). Commissioners Olga Bungu, Mekia Tanyanyiwa, Grace Ndebele, Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba, Godfrey Munyonga, Angelina Guvamombe, Justice Chengeta, Robert Masukusa, Eve Mlilo, Grace Maenzanise, Prudence Chakanyuka, Erasmus Makodza, Wiklef Makamache, Edward Fusire and Douglas Nyakutsikwa.
The retirement letters were signed by Acting Commissoner-General Godwin Matanga and were titled “Retirement from the Zimbabwe Republic Police in Terms of Section 22(3) of the Police Act Chapter 11:10”.
The following day on Friday, Commissioner Rabson Mpofu (Planning and Development) made the surprise about-turn saying only 11 had been retired. These included Senior Assistant Commissioners Munyonga, Chengeta, Nyakutsikwa, Masukusa, Makodza, Chakanyuka, Mlilo, Maenzanise and Taedzerwa.
According to sources the axe will soon fall on several top CIO operatives, mainly directors, deputy directors and assistant directors. They would be replaced by personnel from the military intelligence, sources said.
“About 20 directors in the CIO have been listed for dismissal and the letters await to be signed by the CIO Director General Isaac Moyo,” a source said.
Chiwenga is also reportedly targeting directors and senior personnel at Zimpapers and the national broadcaster, ZBC over alleged links to former Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo. Most of them were reportedly appointed when Moyo was still with the ministry of Information.
Some raft of changes were also likely at the Police Support Unit, with Chiwenga, who is the VP in charge of defence, planning to integrate some police officers with military training into the army.
During the military intervention that toppled former president Robert Mugabe, the military reportedly put the Chikurubi Support Unit under siege following perceived resistance to Operation Restore Legacy. The police in that unit had reportedly refused to surrender keys of the armoury.
Police officers from the Support Unit with alleged links to G40 will be retired while the army will provide senior top officers to command the station and the current troop commanders reposted, sources said.
However, no such purging is expected in the military where, in contrast, many officers have recently been promoted. Many senior army officers with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel upwards also reportedly received twin cab vehicles during the operation which they still possess, the government source said.