ZIMBABWE Defence Forces (ZDF) commander General Philip Valerio Sibanda, who was recently appointed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa as an ex-officio member of the Zanu PF politburo, is destined for higher political office, political analyst Professor Eldred Masunungure has said.
Sibanda was appointed at the end of the Zanu PF annual conference in Gweru last Saturday. However, the national constitution, in sections 208 and 211, forbids members of the security services from participating in political party activities or holding office in parties.
By being appointed an ex-officio member of the politburo, General Sibanda can attend Zanu PF politburo meetings and take part in discussions.
Masunungure, who teaches political science at the University of Zimbabwe, told The NewsHawks in an exclusive interview that Mnangagwa must have taken a long time in planning the appointment of Sibanda, opening the way for the top soldier to venture into fulltime politics.
“The political (interpretation of Sibanda’s appointment) relates to the intent behind the President’s seemingly unprecedented and anomalous decision. It is evident that he must have thought about this long and hard, weighed the costs and benefits, politically, of moving in that direction. One can only speculate about the ‘hidden’ intent and in doing so, a thought runs to the chronically unresolved issue of the succession question in Zanu PF.
“Speculation therefore is warranted that he is due to migrate from his military career to a second career, a political one. In the latter domain, he can then be earmarked for top positions in the party and government, first as VP (most likely replacing the sexually blemished Mohadi) before being elevated to the pinnacle of power i.e., being President,” said Masunungure.
He added: “Incidentally or intentionally, this would mark the continuation of the Shumba clan while also satisfying the long-held grievance of Zapu/Zipra being marginalised by not being considered for the highest office in the land. So, ED would have killed at least two birds with one stone.”
The political scientist also opined that the constitutionality of Sibanda’s appointment must be tested in a competent court of law.
“The appointment was and remains controversial and contestable with various interpretations to it that can be reduced to two: constitutional and political. The constitutional lies in the realm of the Constitutional Court to determine whether the appointment is consistent with the supreme law of the country.
“The constitutionality of the appointment should be determined by the judiciary to the extent that it can do so impartially,” he said.
The ZDF boss is now an active member of the Zanu PF party, who is expected to be furthering the interests of the party.
The constitution, the supreme law of the country, on the other hand requires security forces to be professional and non-partisan, all the time.
Section 208 of the constitution expressly bars the security services — listed in section 207 as defence forces, police service, intelligence services and prisons and correctional services — from acting in a partisan manner.