Political tension grows in Zimbabwe as army chief threatens coup

General Constantine ChiwengaPolitical affairs in Zimbabwe took an unprecedented turn on Monday, as the chief of the armed forces warned the country’s President, Robert Mugabe, that the military would “not hesitate to step in” to stop infighting within the ruling party. General Constantino Chiwenga, Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, took the extremely rare step of summoning reporters for a press conference at the military’s headquarters in Harare on Monday. A direct intervention of this kind is unprecedented in the politics of Zimbabwe, a country that is tightly ruled by its authoritarian President, Robert Mugabe. Mugabe is also President and First Secretary of the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), the party that has dominated Zimbabwean politics since it assumed power in 1980.

General Chiwenga reportedly spoke in the presence of nearly 100 senior military officers, who were seated in the conference room and appeared to support his intervention. The press conference was called less than a week after President Mugabe fired his second-in-command in ZANU-PF, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa. The 75-year-old longtime confidante of Mugabe was dismissed from his post after speaking out against Mugabe and his wife, Grace, 52. It is thought that Mugabe, the world’s oldest president at 93, is preparing to appoint his wife in his place, something that has angered some in his party, including Mnangagwa. Addressing Mugabe directly, Mnangagwa said that ZANU-PF is “not personal property for you and your wife to do as you please”. He was removed soon afterwards, on November 6, and is currently believed to have fled in exile in China, but has vowed to return to Zimbabwe.

Political observers in southern Africa warned that Mnangagwa’s firing was a risky move for Mugabe. The 75-year-old former ZANU-PF guerrilla previously served as Zimbabwe’s Minister for Security and Defence, and has powerful connections in the country’s armed forces. General Chiwenga’s intervention on Monday appeared aimed at sending a message to Mnangagwa that the troops will not accept his dismissal. The general warned that “the current purging” within ZANU-PF was “clearly targeting members of the party with a liberation background” —referring to the so-called Bush War between the leftist ZANU-PF and the Rhodesian military in the 1970s. The purge, said Chiwenga, “must stop forthwith”, because “when it comes to matters of protecting our revolution, the military will not hesitate to step in”. The general went further, commenting on Zimbabwe’s political instability and economic woes: “There is distress, trepidation and despondence within the nation”, he said, which is caused by “squabbling” within the ruling party. Because of that, “there has been no meaningful development in the country for the past five years”, resulting in “cash shortages and rising commodity prices”, added the general.

The next party congress of ZANU-PF is scheduled for December in Harare. Until last week, it was expected that Grace Mugabe would be appointed vice president at that time, replacing Mnangagwa. But with General Chiwenga’s unprecedented intervention on Monday, it remains to be seen whether President Mugabe’s strategy will unfold as planned.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 14 November 2017 | Permalink

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Dead body found on plane carrying millions in cash in Zimbabwe

HarareAn American-registered airplane carrying large quantities of cash on behalf of a South African bank was impounded by authorities in Zimbabwe after a dead body was found on board. Zimbabwean media said police was notified after human blood was seen dripping from the plane’s cargo area during an emergency refueling stop. Authorities said the plane belonged to Western Global Airlines, a Florida-based transportation company that specializes in chartering flights to Africa. Its crew includes at least two Americans, a Pakistani and a South African citizen.

According to officials in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, the cargo plane had been traveling from Germany to South Africa when it made an emergency request to land at the Harare International Airport. An earlier request by the crew to land in neighboring Mozambique had been turned down. But after refueling the plane, attendants at Harare airport noticed that there was blood dripping from the plane’s cargo area. When they opened the door, they discovered “a suspended body in the plane”, said The Herald, one of Zimbabwe’s largest newspapers.

It was later established that the plane was carrying millions of South African rand on behalf of the South African Reserve Bank (SARB), which is the central bank of South Africa. An official at the bank said on Monday that SARB was “aware of an aircraft carrying a SARB consignment that stopped in Harare and was detained”, but gave no further information. The Zimbabwe Civil Aviation Authority said the matter had been forwarded for investigation to police authorities. The ambassador of South Africa to Zimbabwe, Vusi Mavimbela said media reports about the incident were accurate, but refused to provide details, saying the matter was under investigation.

The last time authorities in Zimbabwe impounded a foreign-owned airplane was in 2004, when a Boeing 727 registered in South Africa was found to contain several tons of weapons and 64 troops. The troops, who were mercenaries from several countries, including South Africa, Britain and Armenia, were on their way to Equatorial Guinea to stage a military coup in return for a share in profits from the country’s lucrative oil sector.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 16 February 2016 | Permalink

Australian special forces secretly operating in Africa, says newspaper

Special Air Service RegimentBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS| intelNews.org |
One of Australia’s most prominent newspapers suggested in a leading article yesterday that a secret Australian special forces squadron has been illegally conducting espionage operations in several African countries during the past year. According to Melbourne-based The Age, the 4 Squadron of Australia’s Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) has been deployed in “dozens of secret operations” during the past 12 months, in countries such as Kenya, Nigeria and Zimbabwe. Members of 4 Squadron have been operating dressed in civilian clothing, carrying forged identity papers, and with strict instructions to deny any connection with SASR if captured, said The Age. Although the existence of 4 Squadron has never been officially acknowledged, the unit is believed to have been established in 2004 or 2005, and is currently thought to be based at Swan Island in Victoria, north of the town of Queenscliff. Its initial mission was to provide armed protection to officers of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) whenever the latter are deployed in warzones or other exceptionally dangerous overseas environments. But 4 Squadron’s missions in Africa, which The Age says were authorized in 2010 by then Prime Minster Kevin Rudd, do not include ASIS officers, and instead require SASR members to act both in a military and civilian capacity in espionage assignments. According to the paper’s allegations, 4 Squadron missions have involved regular assessment and evaluation of inter-African border control standards, developing scenarios for evacuating Australians, mapping out landing sites for possible military interventions, and gathering first-hand intelligence on local politics and the activities of insurgents. The paper claims that the scope and breadth of 4 Squardon’s African assignments have raised concerns within the SASR, with some senior officials viewing the unit’s actions as “a possibly dangerous expansion of Australia’s foreign military engagement”. Read more of this post

Radio station names hundreds of Zimbabwe secret agents

Happton Bonyongwe

Bonyongwe

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A Zimbabwean opposition radio station has begun disclosing the names of hundreds of Zimbabwe intelligence operatives, in what experts say could potentially decimate Zimbabwean intelligence collection activities around the world. On June 30, SW Radio Africa, which is based in London, United Kingdom, aired the names of 83 officers of Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), and promised to air over 400 more in the coming weeks. The revelation is based on a 2001 document, which was leaked to the station by an unnamed CIO insider. In a statement, SW Radio Africa station manager Gerry Jackson dismissed national security concerns, arguing that the CIO “is not used to protect national security and to safeguard Zimbabweans”, but rather as “the brains behind the regime” of Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and his political grouping, ZANU PF. Jackson also cited a 2007 Human Rights Watch report, which found that the CIO is among the country’s most serious perpetrators of widespread human rights abuses. The station said that it decided to publish the names “in the interests of transparency and accountability and in the hope that by exposing these names […] some of the perpetrators of violence [will] think twice before they commit further human rights abuses”. Among the names included in the initial list of 83 persons is that of Hamad Adam, who is listed as a “political councilor” in the embassy of Zimbabwe in Berlin, Germany, as well as Paul Chikawa, who is a staffer in the country’s consulate in Hong Cong. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #511

News you may have missed #479 (Iran edition)

  • Iran arrests alleged CIA agent. Iran’s intelligence minister, Heidar Moslehi, has told the country’s state TV that authorities arrested an Iranian that he says was working for the CIA, and allegedly set up a network of aides to gather information during anti-government protests last week.
  • Yemen charges family with spying for Iran. Yemeni prosecutors allege that Muhammad al-Hatmi was a paid Iranian agent from 1998 to 2010, and passed money to rebels so they could expand their activities into Saudi Arabia. Al-Hatmi’s wife and son have been charged with aiding him by conveying money and communications.
  • Leaked intelligence report claims Iran intensifies uranium hunt. The Associated Press has published the findings of a leaked intelligence report, from an undisclosed IAEA member-country, which claims that Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi met secretly last month with senior Zimbabwean mining officials “to resume negotiations […] for the benefit of Iran’s uranium procurement plan”.

News you may have missed #398

  • Britain’s first spy chief ordered Rasputin’s murder. Mansfield Cumming, or ‘C’ as he became known, was the first chief of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). In December 1916, he sent three agents in Russia to eliminate Grigori Rasputin, an influential Orthodox Russian priest who had a positive view of Germany.
  • Russian spy network moved money to Zimbabwe. A Zimbabwean company called Southern Union is alleged to have been used by exposed Russian spy Anna Chapman in a money smuggling operation involving a syndicate linked to the Robert Mugabe regime.
  • Iran says nuclear scientist gave valuable info on CIA. Iran’s semiofficial Fars news agency says that Iranian nuclear scientist Dr. Shahram Amiri, who resurfaced and returned home last week from the United States, after having disappeared during a 2009 religious pilgrimage to Mecca, has provided Iran with “valuable information” on the CIA.

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