POLITICAL tensions are running high in the faction-riddled Zanu PF over the militarisation of the commissariat where officials with security backgrounds are accused of forming parallel structures resembling those of the politburo to undermine the role of certain party bigwigs, while propping up others as part of President Robert Mugabe's simmering succession battle.
The militarisation of the commissariat, brought under direct control of security sector actors, has rattled senior party leaders who now feel the increasing number of retired soldiers, police and intelligence officers occupying influential positions in Zanu PF could end up destabilising the party while further alienating it from voters.
Former Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), police and army officers are gradually tightening their grip on Zanu PF. The commissariat is now driven by security forces, fronted by retired Air Vice-Marshal Henry Muchena and former CIO director-internal Sydney Nyanhongo, who were Zanla guerillas during the liberation struggle. Party structures are also teeming with cadres from security backgrounds.
Zanu PF insiders told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that when Muchena took over the commissariat in 2010, he set up his own structures similar to those of the politburo dominated by retired CIO, police and army officers.
While Webster Shamu is the party's national commissar, Muchena and his team have virtually taken over and are running the show. This has opened the floodgates for people with security experience to come to the party, some demanding to be candidates in the next elections. Muchena's structures are accused of fuelling infighting as they are being used to support certain factions and candidates, insiders say.
"The commissariat under Muchena is being accused of supporting certain factions and candidates, particularly the (Vice-President Joice) Mujuru faction," said a party insider. "When the new commissariat took over, it got rid of people who were working with (the late Elliot) Manyika. The top 10 posts are now held by securocrats. It seems they have created parallel structures similar to those of the politburo, and this has angered the party's leadership -- people are certainly not happy with that."
The situation has been worsened by the circulation last week of a report, which purportedly emanates from within the CIO, saying Muchena and his team are working to undermine Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa. The report, seen by the Independent, has caused ructions within Zanu PF as it (report) heightened suspicions about the activities of Muchena and his group.
The report suggests the Muchena group has embarked on a well-planned smear campaign against Mnangagwa, using state institutions to investigate him for alleged corruption and discredit him to damage his presidential ambitions.
Top Zanu PF officials and war veterans strongly believe a group of securocrats, including those in the commissariat, were trying to push their own political agenda by campaigning for certain individuals in Mujuru's camp during the disbanded district coordinating committee (DCC) elections.
The DCC polls unleashed a wave of internal strife within Zanu PF as the Mujuru and Mnangagwa factions went head to head battling for control of the structures which were abolished last week following demonstrations in provinces against imposition of candidates, vote buying, fraudulent voters' rolls and ballot rigging. Mugabe also complained publicly that factional leaders and their supporters were destroying (his) party.
"One such case was when securocrats unsuccessfully campaigned for Jonathan Kadzura's candidature in Zimunya-Marange district. Kadzura is a close ally of Muchena and Nyanhongo," a source said. "Muchena and Nyanhongo are working with a team of army officers -- code named 'Boys On Leave' -- who are scattered around the country tasked with overhauling party structures which Shamu described as shambolic
in 2010. Their main task is to revive the crumbling party structures ahead of elections."
However, in a bid to contain the rampant infighting, the Zanu PF politburo last week cancelled the DCC elections and dissolved the divisive structures seen as key in determining who controls the party and eventually succeeds Mugabe.
Besides securocrats in the Zanu PF commissariat, army generals and top police chiefs, some of whom want to be candidates in the next elections, have taken over Zanu PF's preparatory poll campaigns across the country and have been demanding party leaders include them in all their meetings.
Top army officers campaigning in Manicaland include Major-General Martin Chedondo, Air Vice-Marshal Shebba Brighton Shumbayaonda, Brigadier-General Herbert Chingo, Brigadier-General Mike Sango, 3 Brigade Commander Brigadier-General Eliah Bandama, and members of the provincial Joint Operations Command (JOC). Police Deputy Commissioner General Godwin Matanga heads the team.
JOC, which brings together army, police and intelligence chiefs, is the force behind Mugabe and Zanu PF, especially during elections.
The army has proved loyal to Mugabe and effectively carries out political tasks on his behalf and has been pivotal in keeping him in power during the 2002 and 2008 elections, although its role in politics and elections has been significant since 1980.
The politburo resolved following the March 2008 elections, after the party lost control of parliament and Mugabe was defeated in the first round of polling, to use a more "warlike" strategy to win elections. The military was thus heavily involved in the bloodyJune 2008 presidential election runoff between Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai which was marred by widespread violence and killings.
The army practically played a commissariat role for Zanu PF to save Mugabe from outright defeat after he had lost the first round of polling. Army commanders have of late become even more vocal in their support for Zanu PF and Mugabe, while denouncing his rivals.