THE expulsion of high-ranking Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) officers this week has escalated tension in the security forces amid revelations that some operatives who were tortured during the military’s Operation Restore Legacy which toppled former president Robert Mugabe were demanding compensation for injury and trauma.
The November operation catapulted President Emmerson Mnangagwa to high office, ending Mugabe’s 37-year grip on power.
The army was vicious on people netted during Operation Restore Legacy, particularly the police and CIO agents, further straining relations which had deteriorated due to differences over the protracted Zanu PF succession wrangle.
Senior CIO officers who were retired this week include director of security Albert Miles Ngulube, Andrew Muzonzini (director external affairs), Kizito Gweshe (deputy director counter intelligence) and Tadzingaira Tachivei (assistant director counter intelligence).
Several Provincial Intelligence Officers were also put out to pasture.
Sources said CIO bosses this week issued a circular informing all state agents that those who have served for 20 years or more, except directors, should also retire.
The total number of intelligence officers to be retired could reach as high as 450.
The purges, which follow hot on the heels of similar action at the Zimbabwe Republic Police where former commissioner-general Augustine Chihuri was fired in December, has heightened tension and anxiety in the security sector.
Security officials told the Zimbabwe Independent that officers who were targeted are bitter over their unceremonious removal after serving the government for many years.
“Some of them had loyally served for more than 30 years yet they were removed unceremoniously. The bitterness, and this extends to those that are remaining in the organisation, is also because officers are not being fired for professional reasons and in many cases action was taken on the basis of rumours and outright lies,” a senior security officer said. “Take the example of Ngulube, one of the reasons being given for his dismissal is that he helped Jonathan Moyo and Saviour Kasukuwere escape. They are also saying he was a G40 member.
“But, it is well-known that Ngulube was one of the first persons to be captured by the military during the operation. He was tortured and was held in leg irons. How then could he have assisted Moyo and Kasukuwere to escape when he was in captivity and had no access to a phone? The guy almost died in captivity and the military is aware of that. Of course, he was loyal to Mugabe, as his director of security, but he was never a G40 member. He was sacrificed for doing his job, which was basically to protect Mugabe. That’s the job he swore to do.”
Security officials also revealed that some CIO agents had demanded compensation for the injuries they sustained as well as emotional trauma they suffered after being captured and tortured by army personnel.
The demands were made at a recent meeting with new CIO director-general Isaac Moyo. The meeting was attended by personnel from the army.
The CIO agents maintain that they were victimised for no reason. Up to 60 agents who worked close to Mugabe and his family were captured and tortured by the army during the operation.
Some of the agents were captured at the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation’s Pockets Hill studios in Highlands where they had rushed to gather information, soon after receiving news that soldiers had besieged the area.
“The operatives armed themselves and rushed to Pockets Hill. Their mission was to gather information on what was happening there because at that time, it was not clear whether the whole military was effecting a coup or whether a few rogue soldiers had taken up arms,” another senior official said. “Some operatives were also armed to offer protection to Mugabe and to gather information at some strategic places. Some of the operatives were however captured and tortured.”
A government official said the purges were part of the Mnangagwa administration’s efforts to consolidate power.
The official said the feeling in government is that the CIO and police wanted to counter the military action.
“What is happening now is part of Mnangagwa’s consolidation of power. He is basically getting rid of people he doesn’t trust in the security organisations and, in this case, there was a fallout with some top security officials because of Zanu PF succession fights,” a senior official said. “Bridges were then burnt when the intelligence and police tried to counter the military operation in a bid to save Mugabe. There could have been bloodshed, but the counter force pulled out after realising the amount of firepower on the ground. As you are aware, military tanks and other heavy artillery had been rolled into town.
“Some police officers were also detained, while the police’s armoury and Support Unit camps at Chikurubi in Harare, Fairbridge in Bulawayo and Buchwa in Mberengwa were besieged by the army. The Support Unit camps were supposed to provide snipers to assist Mugabe.”
Former Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo, Ngulube, and former Zanu PF youth league secretary Kudzanayi Chipanga were detained, while former Local Government minister, who was also Zanu PF national political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere, and former Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo escaped.
Soldiers stormed Chombo’s Mount Pleasant home before spraying the house with bullets.
The crackdown on police was partly because the Support Unit attempted to arrest Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, then commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, when he arrived from China on November 12 last year.
This was a week after Mnangagwa had fled the country to avoid arrest.
A petition sent to the Southern African Development Community and the Africa Union by a political outfit, New Patriotic Front (NPF), reveals efforts to save Mugabe’s presidency would have resulted in a bloodbath on November 15 last year.
In the dossier, NPF says the military warned Mugabe against using the CIO and the police to counter them while he was confined to his Blue Roof home during his last days in power. The 79-page dossier contains minutes of all meetings between Mugabe’s negotiation team and army commanders and reveals tensions between the army, as well as the police and CIO.