HARARE – In a surprising move, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has decided to “stay” the controversial appointment of Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander General Philip Valerio Sibanda to the Zanu PF politburo.
The latest decision comes just hours after lawyers issued a 10-day ultimatum demanding the reversal, citing a breach of the constitution.
Mnangagwa’s initial decision to appoint General Sibanda as an ex-officio member of Zanu PF’s top decision-making body faced widespread criticism, with legal experts pointing out potential violations of the constitution.
Mnangagwa’s spokesman, George Charamba, explained that the president hopes the reversal will address any conflict with the country’s constitution regarding the involvement of serving members of the security services in partisan political activities.
Charamba stated, “The position will be reviewed at the expiry of General Sibanda’s term as a senior serving officer at the helm of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.”
Top rights lawyer Kudzai Kadzere, who issued the ultimatum, argued that the appointment placed General Sibanda in an awkward position, potentially compromising his impartiality.
In a letter to Mnangagwa, Kadzere explained the meaning of “ex-officio” and emphasized that such members are expected to act in the best interest of the organization or group they represent.
Kadzere’s letter stated, “It is evident that your appointment of General Sibanda as an ex-officio member of the Zanu PF politburo puts a serving Commander of the Defence Forces in an invidious position of acting or being seen as acting in a partisan manner.”
The lawyers demanded the reversal of the appointment within the next ten days, warning that legal action could follow if Mnangagwa failed to comply.
They pointed out potential violations of the constitution, particularly regarding the participation of armed forces members in partisan political activities.
Mnangagwa had attempted to defend the appointment in an interview with state television ZBC, asserting that General Sibanda was not a civil servant and highlighting his role as an ex-officio member who couldn’t vote in the politburo.
Despite Mnangagwa’s attempts to justify the decision, legal experts argued that the law had been violated.
In response to the ultimatum, Mnangagwa decided to reverse the appointment, avoiding potential legal consequences.
This development adds to recent challenges faced by Mnangagwa, including the appointment of a tribunal to investigate Justice Webster Chinamora’s fitness to stay in office following public pressure and accusations of breaching his oath of office.