Zimbabwe was sent into a state of upheaval following President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s recent decision to appoint General Phillip Valerio Sibanda, the Defence Forces commander, to the Zanu PF politburo. This unexpected move has raised numerous questions about its legality and its potential repercussions on the nation’s political arena.
President Mnangagwa’s announcement that Sibanda would serve as an ex-officio member of the Zanu PF politburo has stirred constitutional concerns. Notably, this decision appears to directly contravene Zimbabwe’s constitution. Section 208(3) of the constitution is unequivocal in its assertion that “Members of the security services must not be active members or office-bearers of any political party or organization.” This provision underscores the imperative of maintaining a clear demarcation between the military and political spheres, thereby preserving the non-partisan nature of the security services.
Furthermore, Section 211 of the constitution outlines the foundational principles that govern the Defence Forces, emphasizing their necessity to be “non-partisan, national in character, patriotic, professional, and subordinate to the civilian authority as established by this constitution.” The appointment of General Sibanda to a political role within the ruling Zanu PF party raises pertinent questions regarding the military’s commitment to maintaining its non-partisan stance and its subordination to civilian authority, both of which are fundamental constitutional requirements.
This development has given rise to concerns that General Sibanda, who holds a pivotal role within Zimbabwe’s military, may now be in a subordinate political position. This has ignited apprehensions about the military’s independence from political influence and its alignment with a specific political party.
Beyond the constitutional implications, this move lends credence to prior statements made by ZANU PF Spokesman Christopher Mutsvangwa, who has alleged that the military has played a significant role in suppressing opposition movements. He pointed to instances such as the 2008 elections, where the opposition MDC faced physical attacks, and the 2018 elections, which raised suspicions of military involvement in electoral processes.
The controversial appointment of General Phillip Valerio Sibanda to the Zanu PF politburo has sparked discussions regarding the military’s role in Zimbabwean politics and the pressing need to uphold constitutional principles that safeguard the nation’s democratic values. This development raises profound questions about the military’s influence in politics and its potential impact on the country’s political landscape, casting a cloud of uncertainty over the situation.