HIGH-PROFILE weddings, especially those of the rich, famous and powerful — very important persons (VIPs) — are renowned worldwide for their grandeur, luxury and vibrant celebrations.
These auspicious occasions bring together families, friends, and communities to witness in joyous festivities the union of two souls and the beginning of a new chapter in their lives; a celebration of life and possibility – creating memories.
A wedding signifies the beginning of a shared journey and vision, a commitment to building a life together based on love, trust, and loyalty, as well as dreams and ambitions.
It is essential not only for the legal union of two individuals involved, but also for the profound emotional attachment and social significance in human culture.
Beyond the ceremonial aspect, weddings strengthen social and cultural bonds, fostering a sense of community and interrelations.
Moreover, weddings often carry cultural and religious substance, representing continuity of traditions and values, passing them from one generation to the next.
However, beyond the dazzling display of colours, throwing of confetti, showcasing cultural traditions, song and dance, and festivities, hidden dimensions — especially political ones — add depth and intrigue to wedding celebrations.
Political insiders in Zimbabwe’s corridors of power say this was the case with Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga’s wedding to Miniyothabo Baloyi (47), 20 years his junior.
The wedding had a serious hidden political dimension that may shape Zimbabwe’s future in months ahead, particularly leading to 2028 when Mnangagwa’s second term expires, they say.
As reported by The NewsHawks last week, Mnangagwa’s third-term plan is up in smoke due to military and constitutional hurdles. Insiders say the wedding was a political statement and an endorsement of Chiwenga’s power ambitions and strategic manoeuvres.
It became a stage for political manoeuvring, display of power, and endorsement. Behind the shimmering decor and the splendour of designer outfits, Chiwenga and his political agenda seized the attention of the guests and influenced the celebrations.
The glamorous wedding, whose colour theme was cream and green, started with a ceremony at St Gerard Catholic Church in Borrowdale, Harare, followed by a reception at Venue Umwinzii, an exquisite wedding venue located in Umwinsidale.
It was attended by high-profile guests, most of them carefully chosen, including family members, relatives and friends, political and business bigwigs, VIPs and socialites, as well as ordinary people.
Some of the guests included President Emmerson Mnangagwa and First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa, former president Robert Mugabe’s widow Grace Mugabe and her daughter Bona, Vice-President Kembo Mohadi, cabinet ministers, senior government officials, high-ranking members of the security services and top ruling Zanu PF party officials.
Former vice-president Phelekezela Mphoko and members of the diplomatic community, as well as business executives and regional retired army commanders were also there.
The political guest list was telling: It included those currently in government, those who had fallen by the wayside when Mugabe was removed and regional politico-military allies from South Africa, Tanzania, Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia.
Chiwenga’s political and military allies, including Zimbabwe National Army commander Lieutenant-General Anselem Sanyatwe and retired Lieutenant-General Engelbert Rugeje, were there in full force. A number of retired and serving army commanders were present.
However, there were notable absentees, particularly outgoing Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General Valerio Sibanda, Air Marshall Elson Moyo and Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga.
Sibanda, Moyo and Matanga are said to be on their way out of the security services. Mnangagwa recently appointed Sibanda to the Zanu PF politburo before reversing the move as it was unconstitutional. Sibanda, who is reportedly unhappy with Sanyatwa’s appointment, is expected quit the army on 31 December.
From the army, Sanyatwe — who was supposed to be the best man at the wedding — represented the military, while the Air Force was represented by retired Air Marshall Shebba Shumbayawonda, now ambassador to Egypt, and Zimbabwe Prison Correctional Service by Commissioner-General Moses Chihobvu.
The Military Intelligence Directorate, where Chiwenga’s wife works, was represented by its commander Major-General Thomas Moyo. Shumbayawonda was retired by Mnangagwa in 2019, together with other military commanders, including Sanyatwe and Major-Generals Martin Chedondo and Douglas Nyikayaramba.
Together with deputy senate president retired Lieutenant-General Mike Nyambuya and Sanyatwe, Shumbayawonda was part of Chiwenga’s bridal team.
Chiwenga also moved to show that he wants to reunite Zanu PF under his leadership, leaving behind political polarisation and toxicity fuelled by Mugabe’s succession battle and subsequently the coup. So he invited the likes of Mphoko and Mutasa to signal to remnants of G40 — the defeated Zanu PF faction that was loyal to Mugabe and his wife Grace — that time for regrouping and forgiveness has now come.
Grace Mugabe, who led the onslaught on Mnangagwa and provoked the army into action, was also there, with her daughter Bona. There was a strong presence of business representation at the wedding, starting with Chiwenga’s right-hand men Lishon Chipango and George Manyere. The two were part of the organisers.
Chiwenga extended a hand of friendship to business in his power play. Some of the big companies invited included Delta, CBZ, Simbisa, Liquid, Innscor, First Capital Bank, Invictus and many others.
But it was the best man — retired Lieutenant-General Epaphras Denga Ndaitwah — who took pride of place among Chiwenga’s groomsmen. Ndaitwah (71) is a Namibian diplomat and former military commander.
He was the chief of the Namibia Defence (NDF) from 24 January 2011 to 31 December 2013. Ndaitwah joined Swapo’s military wing, People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (Plan), in 1974 and participated in the liberation struggle in various positions and capacities.
He was trained in Russia, the former Yugoslavia, India, Nigeria, Zambia and Tanzania. At Namibia’s independence in 1990, he became the first military assistant to the Chief of the Defence Force, Dimo Hamaambo. He was Lieutenant-Colonel at the time.
He became deputy commander of the army in 1997. Until 2006, Ndaitwah served as Namibia’s charge d’affaires in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
He was promoted to Major-General in 2008 as chief of operations, Plans and Training, and then to Lieutenant-General in 2011 when he became Namibian Defence Force commander, succeeding Martin Shalli. He served in that position until the end of 2013 when John Mutwa took over.
Ndaitwah is critical in terms of Chiwenga’s regional power matrix and manoeuvres. He is married to Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, Namibia’s deputy Prime Minister and minister of International Relations and Cooperation, who is also the current Swapo vice-president.
She is set to become the party’s first female presidential candidate in the November 2024 elections. She is a long-time MP. In 2017, Nandi-Ndaitwah was elected Swapo vice-president at the party’s 6th congress. She is the first woman to serve in that position.
In South Africa, a regional powerhouse, Chiwenga had invited his long-time military ally retired General Solly Shoke.
A former uMkhonto weSizwe field commander during the liberation struggle, Shoke is one of the regional army commanders Chiwenga met before the 2017 coup.
Chiwenga also met General Davis Mwamuyanga of Tanzania and Nigerian Chief of Staff at the time Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin.
He has kept his influential contacts that are critical to his rise to power. Chiwenga and Baloyi’s wedding has attracted a lot of attention.
The situation is dramatised by the fact that the two are already a power couple with a mission to rise to the top. Chiwenga (67) is already the Vice-President of the country with a long history dating back to the liberation struggle. Apart from being a liberation struggle commander, he was a bigshot in the army in which he rose through the ranks to become its overall commander.
Chiwenga, who was commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces from 2003 to 2017, led the November 2017 coup which ousted Mugabe who had been in power for 37 years and brought in Mnangagwa.
He was the kingmaker, a position that was reserved for the late retired army commander Solomon Mujuru who died mysteriously in 2011.
Chiwenga and others removed his widow Joice Mujuru as vice-president to pave way for Mnangagwa. Mujuru was not at Chiwenga’s wedding. For a while, Chiwenga earned cult hero status as people celebrated Mugabe’s demise.
Chiwenga’s life has been as dramatic as his politics. A story is told that he almost died in 1982 when he shot himself in attempted suicide after being caught cheating in a military examination.
Lieutenant-Colonel Zach Freeth of the British Military Advisory and Training Team, which oversaw the integration of liberation movement guerrilla fighters from Zipra and Zanla and Rhodesian forces, has confirmed the story.
Chiwenga’s personal life has also been theatrical, having gone through three failed marriages. The last two to Jocelyn and Marry ended up in high drama and near-tragedy.
This subtle political backdrop and prevailing landscape are intertwined with Chiwenga’s wedding. In Zimbabwe, where politics permeates every aspect of society, it comes as no surprise that the wedding closed a sensational chapter of his married life when he tied the nuptial knot God’s way with Baloyi, while it was a theatre for political manoeuvring, mobilisation and endorsement.
Chiwenga is coming out of a nasty divorce with ex-wife Mubaiwa which was characterised by allegations of betrayal, attempted murder, money laundering, corruption and fraud. Mubaiwa lost her hand in the fight through amputation.
The wedding thus marked a new chapter in Chiwenga who had a bitter divorce with Mubaiwa whom he had married after she had controversially divorced ex-footballer Shingi Kawondera.
Politically, Chiwenga got the endorsement that he badly needed from Mnangagwa — his stumbling block to power at the moment — who made it sound like fait accompli that his deputy with take over from him as the curtain comes down on his long-checkered career.
Acknowledging Chiwenga’s liberation struggle credentials, his firmness and that they had worked together for 46 years, Mnangagwa said: “As we go away, we are satisfied that we leave men of integrity; men who have seen it all, to continue walking the correct line of revolution and to continue leading this country to prosperity and to continue to maintain unity of the nation.”
A ringing endorsement for Chiwenga.