Elias Mambo/Taurai Mangudhla
93-year-old Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s son-in-law, Simba Chikore, is now in charge of the veteran leader’s close security unit (CSU) amid concerns that the commander-in-chief’s protection could be compromised, national security sources revealed.
The development comes at a time Chikore has also taken over the day-to-day running of ailing flag carrier Air Zimbabwe, (AirZim) relegating chief executive officer Ripton Muzenda to a figurehead.
As Mugabe, 93, becomes increasingly sensitive to matters of security due to the intensifying factional fights in Zanu PF, Chikore has become involved in his father-in-law’s security protocol despite not having any known training in VIP protection. The development is unsettling security chiefs who believe he is compromising the president’s close protection by interfering with the work of his security and protocol officers.
Security sources who spoke to the Zimbabwe Independent said Chikore, who is married to Mugabe’s daughter Bona, has previously attempted, at some of the president’s official functions, to give orders to security and protocol personnel.
“If you have noticed lately, Simba has been moving around with security earpiece headsets(see picture below) and in some cases a two-way radio which he uses to communicate with other CSU personnel when the president is around,” a source said.
Security officials say Chikore is sowing confusion in Mugabe’s close protection team which thrives on strict discipline and organisation.
“We want things to be done properly because if there is a security lapse he won’t take responsibility. That’s the major concern,” a top security officer said.
Security officials say they faced similar problems with Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko’s son, Siqokoqela, following his father’s appointment.
“Siqokoqela was also overzealous like Simba, but he has stopped his behaviour after some officials talked to him,” the official said. “There are many examples that can be cited, including the president’s birthday celebrations at his Munhumutapa offices last month, where he interfered with security details despite the fact that the President’s Office was in charge of the event. He was also all over the show at Mugabe’s birthday bash organised by the Zanu PF Youth League in Matobo, resulting in some officers complaining that they were failing to do their duties.”
Meanwhile at AirZim Chikore has rendered Muzenda redundant as he is now directing the day-to-day running of the parastatal. Sources said Chikore is taking major decisions, including those which should be the prerogative of the CEO.
“Chikore has effectively overshadowed Muzenda because of his proximity to the first family and the direct communication he has with Transport minister Joram Gumbo.
Sources also said the dysfunctional relationship between Chikore and Muzenda has paralysed the struggling parastatal, which is on the verge of collapse.
Efforts to get comments from Chikore failed as his personal assistant, who refused to identify herself, said her boss was not in the office. She said she did not know when he would report for duty.
Muzenda’s mobile phone went unanswered. He did not respond to text messages sent to him although they were delivered. The receptionist at the AirZim switchboard said he was not in his office.