HARARE – In a surprising and controversial move, President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe has appointed the Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, General Philip Valerio Sibanda, as an ex officio member of the Zanu PF politburo.
This announcement was made during the closing remarks of a Zanu PF conference held in Gweru.
General Sibanda, the country’s highest-ranking soldier, will now have a role in Zanu PF, which is a clear violation of the national constitution.
The constitution explicitly states that “the Defence Forces must respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all persons and be non-partisan, national in character, patriotic, professional, and subordinate to the civilian authority as established by this constitution.”
While the military in Zimbabwe has a history of involvement in ruling party politics, this appointment marks an unprecedented case of a serving soldier taking on a leadership position within a political party.
Mnangagwa’s move to include General Sibanda in the Zanu PF politburo raises several concerns and questions about the country’s political landscape.
The government has often removed uniformed officers from service for associating with the opposition, making this appointment seem contradictory.
The decision could be seen as an attempt by President Mnangagwa to protect himself against a potential military coup.
The military has played a significant role in shaping the political landscape in Zimbabwe in the past.
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Additionally, this controversial appointment could be part of President Mnangagwa’s strategy as he hints at a potential third term in office.
The move could also signal an intention to groom General Sibanda for a leadership role within the Zanu PF presidium, as was previously suggested by exiled former cabinet minister Jonathan Moyo.
General Sibanda’s background is rooted in the liberation war, where he fought as a ZIPRA combatant.
ZIPRA was the military wing of the former PF Zapu, a liberation war movement that fought alongside Zanu PF for the attainment of independence.
General Sibanda’s appointment raises questions about the military’s role in Zimbabwe’s political landscape and the future direction of the Zanu PF party.
This controversial development comes at a time when the country is dealing with various political and health-related challenges, including the health of co-Vice President Kembo Mohadi, who recently collapsed while addressing a Zanu PF rally.