Mugabe this week promoted 22 senior army officials, including Cephas Gurira who rose from being a colonel to a brigadier general.
Gurira was deployed in the Mhondoro-Mubaira in Mashonaland West to drum up support for Mugabe in 2008, after he lost the first round of election to MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
He is part of the officers named in a 2011 Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiCZ) report titled The Military Factor in Zimbabwe’s Political and Electoral Affairs, which among other things highlights the violent role played by the military in the 2008 election runoff.
Also rewarded is Colonel Luckymore Mkurazhizha who was a lieutenant colonel in 2008. Mkurazhizha oversaw the military’s operations in Murewa North in Mashonaland East.
Gurira and Mkurazhizha add to the long list of senior security personnel who have been rewarded by Mugabe over the years either though promotions or postings to diplomatic missions. In October last year Mugabe promoted 10 colonels to the rank of brigadier generals, and among those promoted were Morgan Mzilikazi, Fidelis Mhonda and Christopher Sibanda, who took part in the 2008 military campaign.
Brigadier-General Mzilikazi was deployed in Buhera South and Central constituencies of Manicaland while Mhonda was deployed in Rushinga, Mashonaland Central. Sibanda oversaw the military operation in Bulawayo.
In March last year, Air Vice-Marshal Titus Mehliswa Abu Basutu was appointed Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Japan. Abu Basutu was deployed in Matabeleland South province in 2008.
Brigadier-General Mike Sango, who was part of the Joint Operation Command top brass which held meetings with Zanu PF provincial coordinating committee officials in Manicaland province in preparation for the 2013 elections, was appointed Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Russia in March.
Also in March, Mugabe promoted Brigadier-General Sibusiso Moyo to the rank of Major-General. Moyo commanded the military operation in Midlands province during the runoff period.
In 2012, Mugabe sent tongues wagging when he promoted Brigadier-General Douglas Nyikayaramba to the rank of major general despite him openly pledging his loyalty to Zanu PF. Nyikayaramba had played an important role in ensuring Mugabe wins the 2002 presidential elections when he was chief executive officer of the Elections Supervisory Commission.
In 2010, Mugabe rewarded Wing Commander Winnie Mandeya, who was operating in Makoni South, with a promotion to the rank of group captain. The promotions are widely seen as a thank you gesture by Mugabe who was rescued by the military after losing the first round of the 2008 presidential election to Tsvangirai. Mugabe got 43,2%, while Tsvangirai had 47,9%.
MDC-T claims 200 of its supporters were maimed and killed, while thousands were displaced during the period.
According to the CiZC report, the role of the military was covert and subdued in the lead up to the March 2008 elections, but it became decisive and toxic during the presidential run-off election campaign period between April and June 27.
“Following a defeat at the polls by the MDC in March 2008, Zanu PF’s evaluation noted the obvious, that the party structures were virtually non-existent and lacked capacity to mount an effective campaign, hence the strategy to turn to the military for a campaign of coercion …,” reads part of the report.
“… Between April and the June 27 run-off election, the security forces took a central role in violently campaigning for the Zanu-PF candidate, Robert Mugabe. During this period soldiers were deployed in all the 10 provinces across the country with the aim to ensure that Zanu-PF wins the presidential election at all costs.