Mnangagwa consolidates power, boots out Chiwenga ally

 Mnangagwa consolidates power, boots out Chiwenga ally
Published: 11 June 2019
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday tweaked his political bureau by axing Zanu-PF national commissar Engelbert Rugeje and replacing him with a trusted lieutenant - Victor Matemadanda.

The surprise changes also saw another of Mnangagwa's allies, Douglas Mahiya, assuming the position of secretary - in charge of former liberation war fighters - while Headman Moyo will deputise him.

Zanu-PF's national spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo said Rugeje now awaits redeployment in September this year.

Speculation was rife yesterday that he could be headed for diplomatic service, which is becoming a semi-retirement home for ex-military chefs.

"The politburo has appointed Cde Matemadanda to the position of secretary for commissariat replacing Cde Rugeje. Cde Rugeje will remain a politburo member pending re-deployment in September this year," he said at a press briefing in the capital held after the Zanu-PF extraordinary session of the political bureau, otherwise known as the politburo.

His axing is being seen as part of an elaborate plan by Mnangagwa to dilute the military's influence in the ruling party and government.

Under the command of Constantino Chiwenga - now vice president - the military masterminded and executed Mnangagwa's dramatic rise to power in November 2017, ending former president Robert Mugabe's 37-year-long reign.

A staunch ally of Chiwenga, Rugeje was one of the key architects of that soft coup which decimated the Generation 40 (G40) faction, which had done almost everything practically possible to quash Mnangagwa's presidential ambition.
Rugeje was among the prominent military figures to leave the barracks upon Mugabe's removal from power and take up influential positions in either government or Zanu-PF.

Zanu-PF secretary for administration Obert Mpofu said there was nothing sinister about Rugeje's "re-assignment".
"The changes are meant to strengthen the party," said Mpofu.

Contacted for comment, Rugeje, refused to comment referring all questions to Khaya Moyo.

Rugeje joins the list of top Chiwenga allies whose influence has been diluted.

In February this year, Mnangagwa retired four senior army commanders to new portfolios completely detached from military operations to diplomatic service.

Major-general Anselem Nhamo Sanyatwe, who was commander of the elite Presidential Guard that brought to an end Mugabe's long rule - and also the leader of the military unit that reportedly shot at unarmed protesters, killing at least six civilians on August 1, 2018 as post-election violence rocked Harare – was the most notable retired serviceman.

Air vice-marshall Shebba Shumbayawonda, who was the acting commander of the country's air force when Mugabe was toppled, was also retired along with major-general Martin Chedondo, who in recent years had been active in Zanu-PF's commissariat.

Then there was major-general Douglas Nyikayaramba, another fierce defender of Mugabe's rule.

Since coming to power in 2017 - and surviving a bomb attack at a rally in Bulawayo during the run-up to the July 2018 elections - Mnangagwa has made wholesale changes to the police, retiring top cops formerly linked to Mugabe.

He has also changed his personal security.

Since November 2017, he was exclusively guarded by the military, his perceived handlers who assisted his rise to power.

But recently, men in army uniforms were replaced by men in suits - reportedly a mixture of army, police and air force members.
Meanwhile, Matemadanda's stock in Zanu-PF keeps rising.

Before Rugeje's appointment to the position in 2017, he had briefly assumed the position from Saviour Kasukuwere who was fired from Zanu-PF for being linked to the G40 faction.

Matemadanda is a well-known Mnangagwa ally who rose to fame for openly criticising Mugabe and his wife Grace in the run-up to Mugabe's ouster when it was dangerous to do so during the strongman's era.

Upon Mnangagwa's ascendancy, Matemadanda was appointed deputy minister of Defence and War Veterans, a portfolio he still holds after winning the Gokwe Central constituency in the July 30 general elections.

The position of commissar in the ruling party has always been a hot seat since time immemorial and bearers of the position often receive brickbats.

Among others the late Border Gezi and Elliot Manyika have held the powerful position which is considered the nerve centre for the party and oversees restructuring and re-invigorating Zanu-PF.
- dailynews


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