ZIMBABWE Defence Forces commander General Philip Valerio Sibanda will retire at the end of the year and pave way for a new security services chief in charge of the country’s military, an official source says.
“Sibanda will retire at the end of the year soon after turning 69,” a source said.
“After the recent political developments, he is going. The only question now is who will replace him?
“The Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) is hierarchically structured, with a three-star headquarters commanded by a lieutenant-general, who is the commander. The ZNA commander is deputised by three major-generals appointed chiefs-of staff. Together with the commander, they constitute the ZNA command element. The structure has five branches namely: general staff, training, administration, quartermaster and inspectorate. General, administration and quartermaster staff branches sponsor corps and directorates grouped according to their specialised roles.”
The source continued: “There are several suitable candidates to take over from him who are serving and retired lieutenant-generals. The obvious names that come to mind, for instance, are those of ZNA commander Lieutenant Anselem Sanyatwe or retired Lieutenant-General Engelbert Rugeje.
Although these are Vice-President retired General Constantino Chiwenga’s close allies, they are well-positioned to take from Sibanda.
“The changes will therefore shake up the structure and end up touching several important positions in the army, including the Air Force. If Sanyatwe moves up to become ZDF commander, then ZNA Major-General Hlanganani Dube, Chief-of-Staff (Quartermaster Staff), may take over from Sanyatwe. Apart from Dube, there are others such as Major-General Kasirai Tazira and Major-General Emmanuel Matatu who are qualified for that job.
“However, Rugeje is being tipped to return even if Mnangagwa may not prefer that option. In doing all this, there is always the issue of balance between former Zanla and Zipra commanders at the top. At the moment former Zipra commanders are occupying top positions of ZDF commander (Sibanda) and Air Force of Zimbabwe Air Marshal Elson Moyo. Changes will take all that into account.”
The source said police might also see some changes, particularly with the likelihood of Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga being sent to Tanzania as ambassador, while being replaced by deputy commissioner-general Stephen Mutamba.
This follows Sibanda’s unconstitutional appointment into the ruling Zanu PF decision-making administrative organ, the politburo, as an ex officio member amid a series of constitutional violations which characterise Mnangagwa’s presidency.
Mnangagwa had appointed Sibanda into the politburo last month at the end of the Zanu PF annual conference in Gweru, but was pressured to reverse it after initial resistance.
“To fill the vacancy, I am appointing Cde Rose Mpofu of Matabeleland South province as a Politburo member and the new Secretary for People with Disabilities.
Additionally, ‘Cde Gwenzi’, General Philip Valerio Sibanda, as an ex-officio member of the Politburo,” Mnangagwa said.
The move was widely and swiftly criticised as unconstitutional and unlawful. Section 208 of the constitution provides for conduct of members of security services, specifically prohibiting acting in a partisan manner and furthering interests of any political party or cause.
Section 208 of the constitution on the conduct of members of security services, says: (1) Members of the security services must act in accordance with this constitution and the law; (2) Neither the security services nor any of their members may, in the exercise of their func a) act in a partisan manner; (b) further the interests of any political party or cause; (c) prejudice the lawful interests of any political party or cause; or (d) violate the fundamental rights or freedoms of any person. (3) Members of the security services must not be active members or office-bearers of any political party or organisation; and (4) Serving members of the security services must not be employed or engaged in civilian institutions except in periods of public emergency.
However, Mnangagwa insisted on it as brazenly illegal as it was amid a storm of protest.
“People are mistaken, they think that General Sibanda is a civil servant. He is not a civil servant; first point. Second point, he is an ex-officio member of the politburo which means that he is not a substantive member of the politburo, he cannot vote in the politburo. He is ex-officio. So, there is no problem, there is no contradiction. He is just a civil servant and I as the President can appoint anybody as an ex-officio member which means by virtue of a certain particular position you can be allowed to sit in our substantive body of the politburo. That’s how it is. I don’t know who gets offended by him sitting in the politburo. He cannot vote, but he can contribute.”
However, public pressure did not relent. Last week, Harare human rights lawyer Kudzi Kadzere wrote to Mnangagwa through Mbidzo,Muchadehama & Makoni Legal Practitioners, demanding reversal of Sibanda’s appointment within 10 days.