Accusations have been leveled against President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe, claiming that he violated the constitution by appointing Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) commander Valerio Sibanda to Zanu PF’s politburo, the ruling party’s supreme decision-making body.
The announcement of Sibanda’s appointment during the party’s annual conference in Gweru immediately drew criticism as a breach of constitutional provisions. According to the constitution, members of the security forces, including the army, are expected to refrain from engaging in civilian politics.
MDC leader and lawyer Douglas Mwonzora condemned the appointment, stating that it blatantly contravened the constitution. He argued that the constitution explicitly states that serving members of the security forces should not be affiliated with any political party.
The military’s unwavering support for Zanu PF has been evident, particularly during the intervention in the party’s factional conflicts in 2017, which led to the removal of former President Robert Mugabe.
Opposition parties have been advocating for security sector reforms to ensure the military’s non-involvement in civilian politics. However, progress on this front has been limited. Zanu PF has resisted calls for such reforms, with some arguing that the party cannot afford to relinquish power through self-reform. In previous elections, military personnel have been involved in various aspects of the electoral process, including the manning of voting booths and leading Zanu PF campaigns.
Legal experts have criticized Sibanda’s appointment on ethical and constitutional grounds. They argue that it is ethically wrong for him to simultaneously hold the positions of ZDF commander and political party functionary. Some lawyers suggest that he should relinquish one of the positions. Concerns have also been raised about a pattern of constitutional disregard in the country.
In the 2018 general elections, the military’s alleged involvement through the shadowy Heritage Trust in campaigning for Mnangagwa and manipulating the electoral process in his favour has been a subject of controversy. The military’s response to protests on August 1, 2018, resulted in the tragic deaths of six individuals.
Julius Malema, leader of South Africa’s opposition Economic Freedom Fighters party, recently described Zanu PF as a “criminal syndicate” that employs the army and police to cling to power. He further expressed his belief that liberation movements on the continent tend to become self-destructive over time.
The appointment of Valerio Sibanda to Zanu PF’s politburo has raised concerns about constitutional violations and the role of the military in politics. Critics argue that the move undermines the constitution’s provisions of non-partisanship for the security forces.