By Fungi Kwaramba
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has cleared the path for General Constantino Chiwenga’s ascendancy to become one of his two deputies and probably successor.
In a statement released yesterday, the chief secretary to the President and Cabinet Misheck Sibanda said the decorated soldier who led the military intervention that brought to a crashing end former president Robert Mugabe’s 37-year-old rule, has been retired from the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) “pending redeployment”.
While the statement did not specify where he would be redeployed to, the Daily News can report that the 60-year-old veteran of the country’s liberation struggle would be Mnangagwa’s second-in-command in government.
Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) commander Philip Valerio Sibanda has since replaced Chiwenga as ZDF commander – a promotion that also earned him the status of a full general.
Sibanda’s elevation was part of a raft of changes in the security sector, consider a pillar of support for the ruling party.
Last Friday, Mnangagwa left the country in agonising suspense after he deferred the appointment of his two deputies as per the Zanu PF constitution, but hinted that he would make the announcements this week.
To all intense and purposes, Chiwenga’s appointment will complete a military takeover of Zanu PF—a party that has close links with the current crop of war generals predating the country’s independence from the British in 1980.
The appointment of air marshal Perrance Shiri and Major General Sibusiso Moyo into Mnangagwa’s first Cabinet have largely been interpreted as his show of gratitude to the military for clearing his way to State House.
Yesterday, Mnangagwa promoted Shiri to the position of chief air marshal while Moyo is now a full lieutenant general.
Both sit in the Zanu PF politburo.
Chiwenga underline his role as the kingmaker in Zanu PF at the party’s congress held last week with virtually everyone, including Mnangagwa, paying homage to his role in the ejection of Mugabe.
The country has been without its two vice presidents since last month when Mnangagwa was fired from both government and Zanu PF.
After Mnangagwa and his Team Lacoste faction made a dramatic comeback — riding on the coattails and tanks of the military—the other vice president Phelekezela Mphoko became part of the collateral damage targeting key members of the rival Generation 40 faction.
Chiwenga, was born Constantine Guveya Chiwenga on August 25, 1956 in Mashonaland East’s Wedza District.
He went to school up to Form 4 at St Mary’s Mission along with Shiri.
On July 29, 2016, he changed his name to Constantino Guveya Dominic Nyikadzino Chiwenga.
Chiwenga went to war in 1973 and received military training in Mozambique as a Zanla militant.
He adopted the war name of “Dominic Chinenge”, rising through the ranks to become a provincial commander for Masvingo/Gaza Province, deputised by George Chiweshe who was the provincial commissar.
He was later promoted to the High Command in 1978 to the post of Zanla deputy political commissar, as Josiah Tungamirai’s deputy.
In 1981, he was attested to the newly-formed ZNA as a brigadier commanding First Brigade in Bulawayo.
He was later promoted to the rank of major-general and reverted to his original name of Constantine Chiwenga.
On the formation of the ZDF in 1994, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-general and was appointed commander of the ZNA.
Upon the retirement of General Vitalis Zvinavashe in 2004, he was promoted to the rank of commander of the ZDF. Daily News