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BREAKING: Top army generals fired over housing corruption

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THE Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF), which brings together the country’s army and air force wings, has fired three senior military commanders at the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) over a multi-million-dollar hard currency housing corruption scandal, in an unprecedented action against venality, security sources told The NewsHawks.

OWEN GAGARE

The high-level sources said ZNA commander Lieutenant-General Anselem Sanyatwe (pictured) recently dismissed three commanders who include ZNA chief-of-staff (quartermaster) Major-General Hlanganani Dube, Major-General Paul Chima (ZDF inspector-general) and Major-General John Mupande, the director-general of policy, public relations and international affairs at the ministry of Defence.

“The three Major-Generals, Dube, Chima and Mupande, were all but dismissed; they have been put in the pool department after an intervention by ZDF commander General Phillip Valerio to manage the housing scandal and their exit properly. So of all of them are going, but they will leave at the end of March,” a security source said.

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“Sanyatwe acted swiftly and ruthlessly against them after they were caught buying properties and inflating the purchase prices, renovations and allocating themselves houses well above their pay grade.

“The corruption involves amounts ranging between US$400 000 to US$4 million. They bought houses for themselves and colleagues at inflated prices for private gain. This involves several transactions, for instance one for US$1.8 million, another US$2 million and the other US$4 million. However, there were many other transactions.”

Another source said: “They have been booted out and sent to pool. However, very soon they will go because due process is currently underway. The houses that were acquired corruptly have been repossessed immediately and turned into guest houses. The houses in question are in Greystone Park suburb in Harare.

“The new ZNA commander is fighting corruption within the army, but his action is also motivated by his own grievances or grudge. When he was removed from the army in 2019 and posted to Tanzania as ambassador, the affected generals, especially Dube, refused to buy him a house. He was told he is out of the system and does not deserve a house. So he is fighting back, now that he is their boss.

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“But then Sanyatwe is not sparing anyone involved in corrupt activities, which shows he is genuine. Even Chima, who was his best friend and his best man at his wedding in August 2022, is not being spared. He is taking army protocols back on line.

“Manje manje (soon) Chima will go as well. There is so much corruption in the army to the extent that suppliers are sometimes paid for goods that were not delivered. In the case of houses, the limits were US$400 000 [just like ministers, deputy ministers, MPs and judges have their own limits on monies they get from government — which means public funds], but others were given over US$4 million for a house. This scandal involves millions of United States dollars.”

Sanyatwe was Presidential Guard commander during the November 2017 military coup which ousted the late former president Robert Mugabe and ex-Zimbabwe ambassador to Tanzania.

He was appointed ZNA commander in October 2023, replacing retired Lieutenant-General David Sigauke. Sigauke, who was unceremoniously removed last year, had in August 2021 replaced the late Lieutenant-General Edzai Chimonyo who had died a month earlier.

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Chimonyo was also ambassador to Tanzania. Soon after the coup, in December 2017, President Emmerson Mnangagwa promoted Sigauke, Mupande, Chima and Dube from Brigadier-Generals to Major-Generals.

Sigauke later became Lieutenant-General upon further promotion as ZNA commander in August 2021.

“There is a lot of corruption in the army. The only reason the military appears less corrupt to other state institutions is that it is less scrutinised and most of its operations and procurements are clandestine,” another source said.

“For instance, remember that Dube was previously accused of having a hand in the theft of 30 tonnes of beef meant for the military’s Recruitment Training Depot in Mbalabala, Matabeleland South. He allegedly diverted the meat to butcheries where it was sold before the money disappeared into private pockets.

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“Allegations were that a driver was sent to deliver 30 tonnes of meat to the training school in Mbalabala, but brought a delivery note and invoice without offloading the meat. These things show that there is corruption within the military. Now it’s the housing scandal, which is far more serious than previously reported cases of corruption.”

Ironically, Dube has been previously quoted as urging soldiers to avoid using their ranks and status for corruption purposes and personal gain.

Notably, compared to their bosses, the rank and file officers’ incomes are far below the poverty datum line, which fuels corruption. This has also created disgruntlement within the army.

The situation is exacerbated by the deteriorating economic situation, currency volatility and inflation. Against this backdrop, there have been reports that top officers in the military and in intelligence sector are worried about a possible security crisis from the underpaid and hungry soldiers who feel betrayed despite having been instrumental in the coup which propelled Mnangagwa to power.

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After the coup, soldiers had an expectation that their salaries and conditions of service would improve. While the military feels it is a stakeholder in Mnangagwa’s ascendancy, their pay and conditions of service are publicly known to be poor and even worse now.

Financing mechanisms and military budgets are inadequate. At time there was a proposal of garrison shops as a policy response to the deepening plight of the members of the security sector in Zimbabwe.

The initiative fell through. The military institution has been implicated in corruption in media reports and research. Corruption has been reported in the military’s commercial operations which cover various sectors of the economy, including its murky platinum deals with the Russians on the mineral-rich Great Dyke.

Powerful military and political elites, as well as security forces, for instance, have been accused of secretly exploiting Zimbabwe’s once-promising Marange diamond sector, while concealing the scale of deaths of people in the bruising battle for the control of the money-spinning gem fields in Manicaland province.

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The military had mining interests in Marange where diamond wealth was plundered.

Corrupt deals were also reported during Zimbabwe’s involvement in military operations, for instance in Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

In a research study, Chefs and Worried Soldiers: Authority and Power in the Zimbabwe National Army, Eric T. Young paints a corruption-ridden socio-political portrait of the ZNA.

Institutional trends and the consequences are analysed by examining the army’s behaviour and discourse within the military.

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Rising corruption, the proliferation of patron-client relationships, the use of the military as a stepping stone to business and politics, and an increasingly “civilian” military justice system are all found to be symptomatic of the ZNA’s increasingly occupational character.

These trends are a result of both the parlous economic environment of Zimbabwe and the ZNA’s combat operations. In Military Corruption in War: Stealing and Connivance Among Zimbabwean Foot Soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (1998–2002), Godfrey Maringira writes about “Zimbabwean foot soldiers engaged in military corrupt activities, stealing army rations from the trenches to resell in neighbouring civilian communities and Congolese soldiers in the DRC”.

“The practice became widespread among and between senior and junior officers,” Maringira says.

“However, this practice did not end with the war; rather it was carried over from the DRC war to the Zimbabwean army barracks. The practice of stealing army rations was a deeply unprofessional practice.”

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