Wednesday, 1 June 2022

MAJOR GENERAL'S DEATH EXPOSES ED, CHIWENGA RIFT

THE death of Retired Major General Godfrey Chanakira has further exposed the rift between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his deputy Constantino Chiwenga.

After initially denying Chanakira national hero status by simply offering a State-assisted funeral, Mnangagwa later made an embarrassing U-turn and accorded him the highest honour for heroes.

Chanakira, who succumbed to a heart ailment, was the permanent secretary in VP Chiwenga’s office.

Mnangagwa’s initial decision surprised the military command and many in the country because it was against the norm, whereby high ranking soldiers are normally accorded hero status.

Sources claimed that Mnangagwa was miffed that Chiwenga had jumped the gun by prematurely bestowing, ahead of him, the national hero status on the decorated former soldier when he went to pay his condolences to the family.

“His works, in service of his country, are there for all of us to see. He is a national hero. But we have internal processes in the party that we have to follow and a meeting will soon be held, that could be tomorrow or a day after, to see which honour is most consistent with his work,” Chiwenga said when he visited the family.

Hours later, deputy presidential spokesperson Regis Chikowore announced that Mnangagwa had directed that the late army general be accorded a State-assisted funeral.

Mnangagwa later buckled under internal pressure following murmurs of disapproval in the corridors of power and the military command, sources said.

Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Misheck Sibanda confirmed that the national hero status decision was reached after further consultations.

“The late Chanakira (Rtd), whose Chimurenga name was comrade Garikai Musavengana, who had been granted a State-assisted funeral, has now been declared a national hero following further consultations,” he said in a statement.

Although the hero status should be a national issue, Zanu PF has over the years monopolised the National Heroes Acre, where its members have been exclusively buried.

The late former President Robert Mugabe went as far as telling the opposition and other critics to construct their own Heroes Acre if not satisfied with the status quo.

Observers say Mnangagwa has been consolidating his power base by either retiring army commanders who were central to his ascendancy to power, or by posting them outside the country.

“Mnangagwa wanted to show Chiwenga who is the real boss by denying Chanakira hero status. The mere fact that Chiwenga has maintained close relations with his former colleagues in the army is making the President uneasy,” political analyst Pardon Taodzera said.

Differences between Mnangagwa and Chiwenga emerged after the November 2017 coup over several issues such as key appointments, including Cabinet posts and Mnangagwa’s tenure.

Chanakira, alongside other five generals Thando Madzvamuse, Evaristo Dzihwema, Chancellor Diye, Gerald Gwinji and Mike Nicholas Sango, were retired soon after Mnangagwa ascended to power following the coup.

Other commanders, who were a vital cog of the coup and were retired, include Zimbabwe National Army chief-of-staff, the late retired Lieutenant-General Douglas Nyikayaramba, who was posted to Mozambique, and former head of presidential guard, Ansleem Sanyatwe, who is now ambassador to Tanzania. Newsday

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