The cable that got the generals into trouble


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Brigadier General Herbert Chingono, Inspector General for the Zimbabwe National Army, and Major General Fidelis Satuku, Director General for Policy and Personnel, Zimbabwe Defence Forces, took a huge risk when they talked to United States ambassador Charles Ray and the United States embassy defence attaché on 5 and 6 January last year.

They had no kind words for the army chief General Constantine Chiwenga. They said he was a political general who worked hard but had very little practical military experience or expertise.

He was a political commissar before 1980 and had only attended one mid-level training course, which he did not complete.

“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 defence chief, and he will be very disappointed if he fails to achieve that goal.

“He has been given to making political statements. This has caused some ZANU-PF politicians to be suspicious of him, and he was chastised by Mugabe for being too political,” a cable released by Wikileaks says.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 10HARARE7, SURVIVING IN TODAY,S ZDF — VIEWS OF TWO SERVING

If you are new to these pages, please read an introduction on the structure of a cable as well as how to discuss them with others. See also the FAQs

Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

10HARARE7

2010-01-09 10:42

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

VZCZCXYZ0002

RR RUEHWEB

 

DE RUEHSB #0007/01 0091042

ZNY CCCCC ZZH(CCY-ADXA421A4-MSI8944-468)

R 091042Z JAN 10

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5281

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE

RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 3235

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 3346

RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 1769

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 2603

RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 2973

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 0034

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 0036

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2506

RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L HARARE 000007

 

SIPDIS

 

C O R R E C T E D C O P Y (TEXT)

 

AF/S FOR BRIAN WALCH

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR MICHELLE GAVIN

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/08/2020

TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR ZI

SUBJECT: SURVIVING IN TODAY,S ZDF — VIEWS OF TWO SERVING

OFFICERS

 

Classified By: AMBASSADOR CHARLES A. RAY FOR REASONS 1.4 B,D

 

——-

SUMMARY

——-

 

1. (C) The most senior ranks of the Zimbabwean military are

so entwined with ZANU-PF as to be practically

indistinguishable from the party. This is particularly

frustrating for many officers who want to concentrate on

building a professional military that can serve as a national

army and play a role in regional stability.

 

2. (C/NF) The following views are from two general officers

currently serving, who spoke privately with Ambassador and

DATT on January 5 and 6; Brigadier General Herbert Chingono

(strictly protect), Inspector General for the Zimbabwe

National Army (ZNA), and Major General Fidelis Satuku (strictly

protect), Director General for Policy and Personnel, Zimbabwe

Defense Forces (ZDF). END SUMMARY.

 

———————-

FACTIONS AND SANCTIONS

———————-

 

3. (C) There are no “factions” within the military, as this

implies leadership around which factions can coalesce. There

are different attitudes and opinions: full support of

ZANU-PF, recognition that the military has been politicized

and improperly used, and the fence sitters who are waiting to

see who comes out on top. Except for those who are fully in

bed with ZANU-PF, people keep their views private to avoid

being accused of treason, which can have fatal consequences.

 

4. (C) 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. 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. He has been given to making political

statements. This has caused some ZANU-PF politicians to be

suspicious of him, and he was chastised by Mugabe for being

too “political.”

 

5. (C) Military officers at the one- and two-star level have

felt the impact of sanctions, and would like to see them

lifted, although they understand the reason they exist.

Those who are currently undecided could be convinced to move

into the reform camp if they saw any signs of flexibility in

the sanctions regime. Military personnel valued their former

relationship with the U.S. and would like to see it resumed.

Many acknowledge that the military’s role in the violence of

2008 and previously was a misuse of the military and hope

such never happens again. The key, they believe, is

continued economic stability and a better resource flow for

the military.

 

6. (C) Those military personnel who are older with more

experience tend to view difficulties in life more

realistically than the younger generation. Life teaches us

Qrealistically than the younger generation. Life teaches us

to expect a certain amount of difficulty and conflict. The

situation in Zimbabwe with the current coalition government

is no different. To think that there would be little or no

conflict in such a government is naive. That said, both

sides in the current lash-up must work out their differences;

they owe it to the people who elected them. In this regard,

the media is often unhelpful. Reports that emphasize extreme

points of view should be read with suspicion and skepticism.

Relations within government are hardly ever smooth, and

conversely, reports that predict the demise of one side or

 

another are often meant only to enflame, not inform. For

example, we have experienced a situation when two opposing

politicians go into a private meeting and interact civilly,

getting along relatively well. Then, at the end of the

meeting, as soon as a microphone is put in front of them, all hell

breaks loose.

 

————————

A VIEW FROM THE TRENCHES

————————

 

7. (C) Ambassador and DATT met privately on January 5 with

Brigadier General Herbert Chingono, Inspector General for the

ZNA, and on January 6 with Major General Fidelis Satuku,

Director General for Policy and Personnel, ZDF. These two

serving military officers took a grave personal risk meeting

with us, and their identities should be strictly protected.

In the current environment, they risk being charged with

treason for an unsanctioned meeting with U.S. officials, and

that could have fatal consequences. Chingono, an artillery

officer, was the last ZNA officer to train under the IMET

program, graduating from NDU in 1999, while Satuku received

training in England. Both participated in the fight for

independence as teenagers and received commissions for that

participation. Unlike some of the senior military who came

out of the struggle, however, they sought to develop

professional military credentials.

 

8. (C) Chingono said that the most senior ranks of the ZDF

are so entwined with the ZANU-PF party as to be practically

indistinguishable. This is particularly frustrating for

those officers who would like to focus on developing a

professional military force that can be an effective national

army, and can at the same time play a constructive role in

the southern African region. This situation has been

exacerbated since the ZDF came under the leadership of

General Constantine Chiwenga, a man with little practical

military experience (he was a political commissar before

1980), who has clear political ambitions. Chingono said 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.

 

————————————–

A GENERAL WHO WANTS TO BE A POLITICIAN

————————————–

Q————————————–

 

9. (C) Both officers stressed Chiwenga’s political ambitions

repeatedly. Chingono said, “He will be very disappointed if

he does not get a political position when his tenure as

defense chief ends.” His politics, however, could very well

be his undoing. His frequent political statements have upset

and worried some ZANU-PF politicians, and about five months

ago Mugabe reportedly called him and chastised him for it.

(COMMENT: This comes as no big surprise. People who do not

hesitate to use the military to enforce and buttress their

hold on power have to be concerned that a member of that very

same military might one day use it against them. What is

surprising is that Mugabe himself took a hand in the matter.

This seems to counter rumors we’ve heard that he is under the

control of the military. END COMMENT.)

 

 

——————————————

NO MILITARY FACTIONS, JUST DIFFERENT VIEWS

——————————————

 

10. (C) In response to a question about factions within the

military, Chingono said that he would take issue with the

view because factions implies that there is leadership around

which they can coalesce. What there are, he said, are

different attitudes and opinions. There are those who fully

support ZANU-PF, have no compunction about engaging in

violence when the party orders it, and who are intensely

political. Others recognize that the military has been used

improperly, and in some instances, illegally, and would like

to get back to the business of developing a professional

military. They worry about morale, discipline, and training

of the troops. Still others are fence sitters — they could

be professional military or thugs — waiting to see who comes

out on top, and will cast their lot with the winning side

just to survive. With the exception of those who are loyal

ZANU-PF tools, no one dares publicly air their views. The

consequences of such rashness could be fatal. (COMMENT: The

Pomona Barracks weapons theft, when several soldiers,

including at least one officer who fought in the liberation

war, were tortured and several died, demonstrates how the

hardliners treat those on the “out.” END COMMENT.) Chingono

said that on the issue of sanctions, the key people on the

list probably don’t really care, as they have other avenues

of funding. Hurt by them, though, are other officers who are

not on the list. He spoke of one brigadier general who was

in Kenya for training who was unable to get his salary

remitted through the banking system because of sanctions.

While they would like to see them lifted, they are realistic

enough to know this won’t happen in the short term. The

fence sitters, however, could be swayed by some flexibility

in sanctions relating to state-owned enterprises, as this

would show that there is hope.

 

————————–

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?

————————–

 

11. (C) Regarding predictions on the future of Zimbabwe,

both officers expressed cautious optimism. Military

personnel who are older and more experienced take a pragmatic

view of difficulties compared to the younger generation.

Life, they said, teaches us to expect a certain amount of

difficulty and conflict, and the situation with the current

coalition government is no different. Anyone who thinks

there would be little or no conflict in such an arrangement

is very naive. Having said that, it is essential that both

sides in the coalition government work out their differences

because they owe it to the people who elected them. The

people of Zimbabwe want to be able to live their lives in

peace; they want a house, a car, and education for their

children. Many, perhaps even most, in the military want to

be able to pursue their profession in an honorable manner.

Qbe able to pursue their profession in an honorable manner.

When the government, or the press, report that everything is

rosy, they said, it is time to be suspicious, because it

means they are concealing something. The events of 2008 when

the military was used to violate the human rights of those

who opposed ZANU-PF are, Chingono said, hopefully an anomaly

that will never happen again. When asked why officers who

want to be professional didn’t oppose such employment, he

said, “In a professional military, you can be court-martialed

for failing to carry out an order.” (COMMENT: This raises

questions of culpability for following an illegal order,

similar to the arguments advanced at the Nuremberg Tribunal

after WWII, but one can also see the motivation for this,

given the potentially fatal consequences here in Zimbabwe.

END COMMENT.)

 

12. (C) Chingono said that if the West insists on

prosecution of all personnel involved in the 2008 violence

 

and the killings in Matabeleland, this is likely to ensure

that those in power will do everything to retain that power.

The Ambassador pointed out that these are issues that the

people of Zimbabwe have to decide, but that there should at

least be some forum established to allow healing. Regarding

any military involvement in violent land seizures, however,

this is a politically-motivated criminal act, perpetrators

can be identified, and the legal system should take

appropriate action.

 

13. (C) Both Chingono and Satuku said they would like to see

re-engagement with the U.S. military because they and many of

their colleagues are impressed with the flexibility and

resilience of American military personnel. They also think

that the generation of military officers that will follow

them could benefit from exposure to American military

professionalism. When asked about ethnic conflict in the

military, the treatment of non-liberation officers, and

morale, their response was that: (a) when people face

hardships together, external differences tend to be

minimized; (b) there is at the junior- and mid-levels no

difference in treatment, and most units below battalion are

commanded by officers who entered the military after 1980;

and (c) while morale now is acceptable, if they’re unable to

keep the military productively occupied, there are likely to

be problems in the future. Satuku said that, if there were

no discipline problems with young soldiers (provided they

don’t interfere with mission accomplishment) he would be

worried, because it is not possible to have a grouping of

young men in such an environment and not have at least a few

problems. Professional officers, though, can deal with these

issues. The key to keeping the military in good order, both

officers said, is continued economic stability and growth

which will allow the military to have an adequate flow of

resources.

 

14. (C) COMMENT: These views are from only two people, and

can’t be extrapolated to represent a general consensus of the

military. But, they are instructive, and tend to validate

other information we hear about what goes on inside the ZDF.

END COMMENT.

 

RAY

(211 VIEWS)

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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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