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Former Freedom Fighter Retired General Constantino Chiwenga Closely Linked to Ruling Zanu PF

  • Blessing  Zulu

FILE: This file photo taken on November 20, 2017 shows then Zimbabwe's Commander Defense Forces General Constantino Guveya Chiwenga (C) speaking during a press conference at the Tongogara Barracks, in Harare. AFP PHOTO / Jekesai NJIKIZANA

Zimbabwean president and first secretary of the ruling Zanu-PF party, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has appointed Retired Zimbabwe Defense Forces General Constantino Guvheya Dominic Nyikadzino Chiwenga and Defense Minister Kembo Mohadi the country’s two vice-presidents.

Some political analysts though are expressing concern at the appointment of many people in Mnangagwa’s Cabinet with a military background, including Chiwenga who executed the military intervention in Zimbabwe leading to the ouster of former president Robert Mugabe. Who is General Chiwenga?

Liberation War Credentials

General Chiwenga was born in 1956 in the Wedza district of Mashonaland East. He attended St. Mary’s Mission school together with Retired Air Force Commander Perrance Shiri, who is now the agriculture minister. In 2011, Chiwenga, once described by his colleagues as “knowing very little” about the military, acquired a Master’s Degree in International Relations from the University of Zimbabwe. In 2015, he attained a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Ethics at the University of Kwazulu Natal in South Africa.

In a damning 2010 appraisal of Chiwenga contained in leaked Wikileaks cables, Brigadier General Herbert Chingono and Major General Fidelis Satuku told then United States ambassador to Harare Charles Ray that Chiwenga was not fit for the job. “General Constantine (now Constantino) Chiwenga is a political general who works hard, but who has very little practical experience or expertise, “read the cables. Adding, “Given a choice between a military and political issue, Chiwenga will always choose the political, because he doesn’t know enough about the military to be comfortable discussing it.”

FILE - URetired General Constantino Chiwenga. (S. Mhofu/VOA)
FILE - URetired General Constantino Chiwenga. (S. Mhofu/VOA)

In a very accurate assessment, Chingono said, “He (General Chiwenga) will be very disappointed if he does not get a political position when his tenure as defense chief ends.”

Chiwenga joined the Zimbabwe liberation war in 1973 and was trained in neighboring Mozambique as a Zimbabwe National Liberation Army (ZANLA) combatant. He adopted the nom-de-guerre, Dominic Chinenge, during the liberation struggle. General Chiwenga rose through the ranks to become a provincial commander for the Masvingo/Gaza Province liberation war front. He was promoted to the ZANLA High Command in 1978 to the post of deputy political commissar, second to liberation war icon, the late Josiah Tungamirai.

Post -Colonial Zimbabwe

In 981, Chiwenga was attested to the Zimbabwe National Army as brigadier commanding First Brigade in Bulawayo and later promoted to the rank of major general. On the formation of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces (ZDF) in 1994, Chiwenga was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general and later commander of the Zimbabwe National Army. He was promoted to the rank of commander of the ZDF in 2004 after the retirement of the late General Vitalis Zvinavashe.

uretired General Constantino Chiwenga.
uretired General Constantino Chiwenga.

He also served as the chairman of the Joint Operations Command, which comprises all the security services such as the army, police, air force, prisons and Central intelligence Organization (CIO). General Chiwenga, having been closely linked to former president Robert Mugabe, is on the United States targeted sanctions list for alleged human rights abuses. He was removed from the European Union sanctions list in 2014.

Dabbling In Politics

Mugabe revealed on many occasions that the army under the leadership of Chiwenga campaigned for Zanu-PF during the elections. Addressing war veterans last year, Mugabe singled out Chiwenga for ensuring the ruling Zanu-PF party retained power in 2008 and 2013. Mugabe also revealed that he had extended Chiwenga and other service chiefs’ contracts so that they assist Zanu-PF win elections.

UMnu. Morgan Tsvangirai.
UMnu. Morgan Tsvangirai.

The army in 2008 deployed senior officers in the country’s provinces to co-ordinate election campaigns after Mugabe had lost the first round of elections to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change, who had failed though to reach the 50 plus 1 votes needed to win outright forcing an election run-off. After the alleged military intervention, Tsvangirai was forced to withdraw from the elections claiming that the army and Zanu-PF militias had killed, tortured and intimidated his supporters. In 2013, Chiwenga labelled Tsvangirai a “psychiatric patient and sell-out”. He once vowed he would never salute Tsvangirai, who called him out on many occasions accusing the general of acting unprofessionally and ironically telling him to join politics.

But Presidential advisor Chris Mutsvangwa, who is also the chairman of the Zimbabwe Liberation War Veterans Association told VOA Studio 7 that Chiwenga and Tsvangirai had since buried the hatchet after war veterans intervened. Chiwenga also clashed with former Higher Education Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo, now on the run, accusing him of infiltrating the ruling Zanu-PF party. Chiwenga also sued Moyo for $5 million after he allegedly insinuated that he did not earn his doctorate as someone had authored the thesis on his behalf in fulfilment of the programs requirements.

Operation Restore Legacy

General Chiwenga was instrumental in the ouster of former President Robert Mugabe after launching what he called Operation Restore Legacy. This came after the expulsion of Mnangagwa from his position as vice president. On 13 November, he called for a press conference and publicly warned politicians to desist from allegedly denigrating the army seen by many as a direct response to former First Lady Grace Mugabe and those backing her to succeed his husband in a Zanu-PF faction called Generation 40 or G40.

UNkosikazi Grace Mugabe loRetired General Constantino Chiwenga.
UNkosikazi Grace Mugabe loRetired General Constantino Chiwenga.

The army general made it clear that if the alleged persecution of the war veterans by the party did not stop, the army would “step in.” But the G40 faction accused him of treason. On November 15, the army staged a coup taking over strategic areas and declaring that they were targeting “criminal elements around President Mugabe”. But eventually they forced the president to step down 6 days later.

General Chiwenga Net Worth

It is very difficult to obtain details about the net worth of politicians in Zimbabwe since they do not declare their assets. But for many Zimbabwean politicians, details of their wealth become a matter of public record when they divorce. Chiwenga’s vast wealth was revealed when he divorced his wife Jocelyn Chiwenga in 2012.

URetired General Constantino Chiwenga loMnu. Kembo Mohadi.
URetired General Constantino Chiwenga loMnu. Kembo Mohadi.

In judgment number 463/14, the High Court granted the Chiwengas divorce after both parties conceded that their marriage had irretrievably broken down.

The court was to also adjudicate on how the couples should share their matrimonial property, among them real estate, companies, top of the range motor vehicles, jewelry, furniture and clothes exposing their vast wealth in the process.

Most of the couples’ properties were registered in the name of companies.

Real Estate

Blue Chip Stamp Company (Pvt) Ltd - which owned a property at 5 Rosary Close, Quinnington, Borrowdale measuring 5 701 square metres.

Lighthouse Investments (Pvt) Ltd - which owned four industrial units in Willowvale, with each unit measuring 3 850 square metres.

Liversay Investments (Pvt) Ltd - which owns a property at 614 Prince Drive in Borrowdale Brook measuring 4 817 square metres.

Hidcote Investment (Pvt) Ltd - which owns a property at 79 Follyjon Crescent measuring 4,955 square metres

Grandi Lodge Sixty One (Pvt) - which owns a house on a 1,692 square metres stand in Borrowdale Brooke.

Ouacker Investments - which owns stand 103 Shawasha Hills residential estate.

Yolsac Safaris (Pvt) Ltd - which trades as Kazungula Wildlife Safaris.

The couple also owned an apartment in Malaysia and a house at 9 Msasa Drive in Msasa Park in Harare.

In addition, the couple owned Dokson Investments, which spearheaded operations at their farm in Goromonzi in Mashonaland East province. Chiwenga was allocated the farm under the 2000 often violent government’s land reform programme.

The couple also owned stand 539 Borrowdale Brooke measuring 1,456 metres squared as well as Dominicus Investments (Pvt) Ltd which owns an industrial stand in Marondera.

The couple owned a property at 34 Lythan Drive in Glen Lorne and a vacant piece of land at Mermaids Pool about 42 kilometres from Harare.

Apart from the properties, the couple also owned motor vehicles, among them, a Prado, Jeep, Toyota land Cruiser V8, Mercedes Benz C180, Land Rover Defender and a Land Rover Discovery 4.

Jewelry

The Chiwengas also had an impressive collection of jewelry which included gold bracelets encrusted with diamonds, gold rings encrusted with diamonds, four gold watches with 36 carat diamond, three gold chains with diamond pendants, gold choker with centre diamond and two gold bangles encrusted with diamonds.

The Chiwengas had 40 gold watches, white gold rings, four white gold chokers, choker Jackie Kennedy pearls and bracelet pearls, 10 piece gold anklet, an emerald ring, pearl ring encrusted with 24 carat diamond, forty eight gold broaches and a set of gold earings and chain with diamonds.

They also had 45 sets of diamond earrings, diamond tiara, blue diamond ring, diamond and emerald necklace, emerald cocktail ring, yellow diamond ring, diamond engagement rings, emerald rings and men’s rolex watches.

Cars

The couple owned the following cars: A Prado, Jeep, Toyota land Cruiser V8, Mercedes Benz C180, Land Rover Defender and a Land Rover Discovery 4.

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