Zanu PF Rejects Criticism of General Sibanda’s Appointment to Politburo
Zanu PF, the ruling party in Zimbabwe, has defended the appointment of General Phillip Valerio Sibanda to the party’s politburo, stating that only the Constitutional Court has the authority to declare it unconstitutional.
The decision to include Sibanda, who serves as the commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, as an ex officio member of the politburo during the recent party conference, has faced criticism from lawyers and the opposition. They argue that the constitution prohibits security service members from actively participating in political parties or organizations.
Zanu PF’s director of information, Farai Marapira, dismissed the criticism, emphasizing that only courts of law have the final say on constitutional matters. Marapira told ZimLive that individuals claiming authority to speak definitively on such matters are misguided and emphasized the need to respect the role of the Constitutional Court. He argued that the appointment of General Sibanda should not be limited to a narrow interpretation of a single section of the constitution. Marapira pointed to Section 67, which guarantees the right of every Zimbabwean citizen to make political choices freely.
Critics, however, remain unconvinced by Zanu PF’s arguments and accuse President Emmerson Mnangagwa of violating his oath to uphold the constitution by appointing Sibanda as a partisan general. They contend that Sibanda cannot simultaneously hold the positions of general and politburo member, asserting that he must choose one role over the other.
The Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) spokesman, Promise Mkwananzi, called on Zanu PF to observe the law instead of repeatedly breaking it and expecting others to seek legal recourse. Mkwananzi deemed the appointment unlawful and politically problematic, suggesting that General Sibanda should step down if he wishes to engage in politics.
Prominent lawyer Advocate Thabani Mpofu unequivocally stated that it is unconstitutional for General Sibanda to assume a position in the Zanu PF politburo, dismissing any room for debate on the matter. Mpofu raised concerns about the potential conflicts of interest that may arise if Sibanda were to respond to opposition actions as both a military commander and a member of the ruling party.
MDC-T leader Douglas Mwonzora, another lawyer, echoed the sentiment, describing the appointment as “totally wrong” and emphasizing the dangerous conflation of the state, army, and party.
President Mnangagwa, who is in his second and final term, is reportedly favouring General Sibanda to succeed him and is seemingly paving the way for his entry into Zanu PF politics.
Former foreign minister Walter Mzembi expressed concern over the boundaries being crossed and the implications for the military commander, suggesting that sitting in a politburo where decisions affecting opposition parties are made could create conflicts for Sibanda.
The debate surrounding General Sibanda’s appointment highlights the tensions and differing perspectives on the role of military officials in political affairs in Zimbabwe.