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Shootout at army chief home

Zanu-PF party’s national political commissar Retired Lieutenant-General Engelbert Rugeje yesterday addresses party supporters at a meeting in Tsholotsho yesterday.Listening from left is member of parliament for Tsholotsho South constituency Cde Zenzo Sibanda

A HEAVY exchange of gunfire erupted in the usually serene Mt Pleasant suburb in Ha-rare yesterday as secu-rity details at the home of for-mer Zanu PF national politi-cal commissar, retired Lieu-tenant-General Engelbert Rugeje (pictured), engaged in a fierce two-hour gun battle with unknown assailants at the luxurious property.


One person was killed while five others were critically in-jured in the shootout.The former army chief was reportedly not at home when the incident happened.

The shootout, which played out in the early hours, comes at a time political tempera-tures are rising in the ruling party as heavyweights line up for positions in the impending
internal elections.

Jostling for leadership po-sitions, which observers said was taking factional lines, has intensi-fied in recent weeks as the party pre-pares for district co-ordinating com-
mittee (DCC) elections.


Two distinct factions, one led byPresident Emmerson Mnangagwa and another by his ambitious dep-uty Constantino Chiwenga, have emerged since the former’s rise to
power in the November 2017 military coup.

Zimbabwe Republic Police spokes-person Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed the shooting yester-day, but ascribed the incident to crime.

“We confirm that there were some criminals who tried to get into retired General Rugeje’s residence. They tried to get access and there was a scuffle with the security and we confirm that one of the criminals was shot dead while five other people sustained se-rious injuries,” Nyathi said, adding that investigations were still ongoing.

“We will advise as new information on the criminals is available,” he added.

But Rugeje’s family members told NewsDay in off-the-record briefings yesterday that they were certain that the shooting was orchestrated by his
political rivals.

“One of the soldiers manning the premises discovered that there was an intruder and opened fire. The suspect was shot in the leg and stomach and was pronounced dead upon arrival at hospital. This can only be an attempt on his (Rugeje’s) life by his political en-emies,” a family source said.

The suspect, sources said, managed to crawl from Rugeje’s house, but died in a neighbour’s swimming pool.

Witnesses further said what made the situation more suspicious was the fact that at the height of the gunfire, a black Range Rover vehicle with heavi-ly tinted windows pulled up and some of the injured assailants were quickly bundled into the car, which then drove off at high speed.

When NewsDay arrived at the prop-erty, along Cheshire Road, Mt Pleasant,a military police vehicle was parked outside while some heavily armed sol-diers were milling around.

Rugeje, considered a Chiwenga loy-alist, was appointed national political commissar at an extraordinary Zanu PF congress in December 2017 after which Mnangagwa retired him from
the army.


He was roundly criticised for pursu-ing a factional agenda in the party’s chaotic primary elections to select leg-islative and municipal representatives ahead of the July 30, 2018 general elec-tions.

He was, however, unceremoniously booted out by Mnangagwa soon after the elections and replaced by Gokwe Central MP Victor Matemadanda.

Mnangagwa has, since the 2018 election, been purging army generals believed to be aligned to Chiwenga.

In February last year, Mnangag-wa retired three major-generals and an Air Vice-Marshal and reassigned them to the diplomatic service, tak-ing them off active military duties and

command. They include former commander of the Presidential Guard Anselem San-yatwe, who directed the coup which toppled the late former President Rob-
ert Mugabe in November 2017.

He also commanded a standby force that quelled a post-election uprising on August 1, 2018 and killed six peo-ple and the civil unrest that rocked the country in January 2019 that claimed 17 lives.

Also discharged from the military were major-generals Douglas Nyikaya-ramba, Martin Chedondo and former Air Vice-Marshal Shebba Shumbayaon-
da, all of whom were posted to foreign mission postings.