Harare — SECUROCRATS are increasingly tightening their grip on Zanu PF amid further indications several members of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), police and retired army officers are battling to become candidates in the next general elections President Robert Mugabe wants this year.
The securocrats are challenging Zanu PF heavyweights whom they accuse of destroying the party by imposing themselves or unpopular candidates, among other charges.
Since independence in 1980, the security sector, particularly the military, has played a significant role in the political and electoral affairs of the country. The visibility and influence of the military has risen gradually over the years to current levels of dominance and control over civilian affairs.
Key positions in Zanu PF's commissariat department are already occupied by security personnel who, like Mugabe, are against the imposition of candidates. In 2010, Air Vice-Marshal Henry Muchena retired from the Air Force of Zimbabwe and joined the party where he is working with former CIO director-internal, Sydney Nyanhongo.
The militarisation of Zanu PF, bringing it more under the control and direction of security actors, has shaken senior leaders who believe the increasing number of people with security backgrounds moving to occupy high positions could destabilise the party and alienate it from voters. Others say the escalating factionalism in Zanu PF and widespread chaos during the ongoing District Coordinating Committee elections is a clear manifestation of problems associated with infiltration by security personal.
Intelligence and Zanu PF insiders say the movement of security personnel into the party is a well-calculated plan to militarise Zanu PF structures and prepare for the takeover of the party by a Joint Operations Command cabal plotting to succeed President Robert Mugabe.
Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander General Constantine Chiwenga has been linked to Zanu PF succession battles.
Of late security operators have been quietly manoeuvring to become candidate in the next elections. In Epworth, for instance, former minister and Harare province chairman Amos Midzi is being challenged by Coxwell Chigwanha who has confirmed he would challenge the former diplomat. He claimed he was asked by the people to stand as they feel Midzi had done his part.
"Yes, I am interested in Epworth because people asked me to stand in as their MP and it is basically for three reasons. One I was born in Epworth, I have been a political activist in Zanu PF youth ever since and I have worked in important structures of government offices," he said.
"Cde Midzi has always been a candidate since 2002 when he lost to Elias Mudzuri in the mayoral elections and then lost to (Elijah) Jembere in the 2008 elections. What that now means is that he cannot run for the next elections. It's the people of Epworth who are saying this."
Another serving CIO operative Lesley Humbe is seeking to oust Tourism minister Walter Mzembi from his Masvingo South seat. Colonel Phillip Toperesu, a serving member of the Zimbabwe National Army, was also reportedly interested in Mzembi's seat.
Mzembi confirmed he may face a challenge from some "scavengers" although he insinuated some people had embarked on a dirty campaign which he feared may destroy the party.
"There are no official primary elections candidates because the party has not triggered off the process of accepting and recognising people as candidates. Those who are running around are just political scavengers," he said.
"Having said that, the party must be mindful that it does not create a free-for-all scenario, a game without rules, to ensure the party does not disintegrate. There is need for strict discipline and guidelines that seems to be fast fading away. The party was built on strong pillars of discipline which mustn't be shaken."
Sources in the party said Elias Kanengoni, the CIO deputy director-internal is interested in the Mazowe senatorial seat, while his daughter Tabeth is eying the Mazowe Central national assembly seat.
Mugabe's nephew Patrick Zhuwao is being challenged by another serving CIO operative, Francis Mukwangariwa, who has made his intentions public.
Sources said retired colonel Claudius Makova, a former legislator for Bikita West, is reportedly eyeing the Bikita Senate seat, while retired colonel Mutero Masanganise wants the Gutu Senate seat.
Masvingo governor Titus Maluleke is likely to battle it out with retired Brigadier-General Callisto Gwanetsa for the Chiredzi senatorial post while retired Brigadier- General Livingstone Chineka, a former Zaka East Parliamentary representative, is also said to be interested in representing Zanu PF in the Zaka Senate seat.
In Masvingo West, retired major Bernard Mazarire is also reportedly among several Zanu PF candidates who are on the ground campaigning for the ticket to represent the party when elections are called. A senior serving CIO operative by the name Raira is also seeking a seat in Masvingo.
"In Manicaland a large number of people with security backgrounds are eying parliamentary seats. Among them are retired Brigadier Elliot Kasu who wants to stand in Nyanga South while another retired soldier Hubert Nyanhongo (who is MP for Harare South) will probably stand in Nyanga North. A former CIO operative Nation Madongerere may stand in Makoni West and Winnie Mlambo, who was a security attaché at Zimbabwe's embassy in London, may stand in Chipinge East," said a source.
"In Buhera South Chief Superintendent Oliver Mandipaka, a police spokesperson, is likely to stand and a serving operative in the CIO training department, Francis Muchenje, wants to stand in Makoni North."
Sources say there were many other people with military and security backgrounds who want to stand on the Zanu PF ticket.
The securocrats who are moving into Manicaland accuse political heavyweights from the area of failing to capitalise on the province's link with the war of liberation to woo votes for Zanu PF.
Most Zanla forces operated in Manicaland during the liberation struggle.
Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo refused to say why a high number of serving and retired members of the security services were campaigning to stand as Zanu PF candidates, saying he would only do so after the politburo discussed the issue. "The politburo is yet to meet and decide on candidate selection. Until politburo meets I can not comment on the issue," said Gumbo.