General Sibanda to be appointed Vice President

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HARARE – President Emmerson Mnangagwa is said to be poised to name the current Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General Phillip Valerio Sibanda as his second vice president, according to the exiled former Information and Publicity minister Jonathan Moyo on Thursday.

Mnangagwa, who is said to be facing a challenge from his current deputy Constantino Chiwenga ahead of the party congress scheduled for December this year, is said to be planning to accelerate the retirement of General Sibanda from the military and appoint him as the successor to Kembo Mohadi who resigned in March last year following a sex scandal.

Prof. Moyo, who is now living in self-exile in Kenya following a 2017 military coup that ousted the late former president Robert Mugabe, also said that Air Marshal Elson Moyo, the Air Force of Zimbabwe commander, would succeed Sibanda.

He tweeted on Thursday: “In what appears to be a double whammy to his political detractors in and outside Zanu-PF ahead of the party’s 2022 congress and the 2023 polls, Emmerson Mnangagwa is set to appoint CDF Phillip V. Sibanda as state VP to replace Mohadi and will replace Sibanda with Air Marshal Elson Moyo as CDF.”

Moyo claimed Sibanda’s appointment was “imminent”, adding: “Preparations to set up his VP office, including staff recruitment, are already underway.”

According to Moyo, who served Mugabe as minister of information and later as higher education minister, Mohadi’s position as vice president and second secretary in Zanu-PF is now “endangered.”

Moyo’s claims could not be independently verified, but it is believed he maintains contacts with senior Zanu-PF officials and some elements in the military.

Mnangagwa’s spokesman George Charamba last week said the Zanu-PF leader would not be stampeded into announcing Mohadi’s successor.

“It’s a prerogative of the president to decide when to appoint a minister or a vice president,” Charamba said, reactoing to calls made by MPs in parliament for the second vice presidency vacancy to be filled.

Mnangagwa’s latest move comes amid swelling rumours of a growing rift with Chiwenga, who reportedly insists that they had a “gentleman’s agreement” following the 2017 coup that Mnangagwa would serve one term and hand over to him, and he in turn would handover to Sibanda. Chiwenga was the ZDF commander when he executed that coup.

On Tuesday, Mnangagwa was forced into an embarrassing U-turn – allegedly by Chiwenga and military chiefs – when he declared the late Major General Godfrey Chanakira a “national hero,” just two days after he had conferred him the lesser honour of a “state-assisted funeral.” The political gaffe could be behind Mnangagwa’s latest manouvres to arrest the fallout from the incident, which critics say has weakened his authority.

Accused of elevating his Karanga clansmen to crowd senior positions in government and public institutions, Mnangagwa would have a vice president and ZDF commander all hailing from Mberengwa – his home district – if Moyo’s predictions are accurate.

Sibanda fought in the 1970s war of independence on the side of ZIPRA, whose political arm, ZAPU, has held one of the two vice president positions since 1990. Mnangagwa would feel, with the appointment, that he has satisfied terms of a 1987 ‘unity accord’ between Zanu and ZAPU, requiring that one of the two state vice presidents be ex-ZAPU.

Chiwenga, a Zezuru, is reported to be planning some kind of challenge to Mnangagwa’s leadership of Zanu-PF, with a congress planned for later this year the stage for the contest to play out. By recruiting Sibanda before the congress, Mnangagwa will hope to neutralise Chiwenga, or at least force a stalemate that leaves him as leader to carry Zanu-PF into next year’s general elections.