Chiwenga, a general who always wanted to be a politician


Zimbabwe Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, who was instrumental in getting rid of former president Robert Mugabe replacing him with Emmerson Mnangagwa, always preferred political rather than military issues, an army general said way back in 2010.

"He will be very disappointed if he does not get a political position when his tenure as defense chief ends," Brigadier-General Herbert Chingono told United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Charles Ray on 5 January 2010.

Chiwenga stepped in on 15 November this year  to “restore legacy” when it became clear that Mugabe’s wife Grace was lining herself up to become the country’s vice-president.

“The Commander of the Defense Forces, General Constantine Chiwenga, is a political general who works hard, but who has very little practical military experience or expertise.  A political commissar before 1980, he has only attended one mid-level training course, which he did not complete,” Ambassador Ray said in a cable to Washington.

“If given a choice between a military and a political issue, he routinely defaults to the political.  His goal is to be in politics when his tenure ends as defense chief, and he will be very disappointed if he fails to achieve that goal.”

Ray said Chingono told him that once Chiwenga called a meeting of senior officers that started at 10:00 in the morning and went on until 9:30 pm, which discussed economics and politics, but not once did a military issue come up. 

“He said that near the end of the meeting, as he consulted his notes, he turned to a colleague next to him and asked, ‘Why have we not discussed how to teach soldiers to shoot straight, how to better feed and clothe them?’ 

“This was, he said, a purely rhetorical question, as, given a choice between a military and a political issue, Chiwenga will always chose the political because he doesn't know enough about the military to be comfortable discussing it. 

“Satuku, who works directly for Chiwenga at the Defense Ministry, said that he is hardworking, coming to his office at 7:30 am and staying until 10:00 at night, but he spends his time on political issues. “

Major General Fidelis Satuku was the Director General for Policy and Personnel, Zimbabwe  Defense Forces , at the time.

Full cable:

Continued next page


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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