Zimbabwe’s ex-military chief named ruling party VP

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Zimbabwe’s new President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Saturday named the former army chief who led a coup that ended Robert Mugabe’s 37-year rule, as one of his two deputies in the ruling party, his office said.

Retired general Constantino Chiwenga was appointed “with immediate effect” as one of Mnangagwa’s deputies in the ZANU-PF party, the presidential press secretary said in a statement, along with long-serving State Security Minister Kembo Mohadi.

The 61-year-old Chiwenga, who stepped down from his military position this week, was instrumental in the temporary military takeover in November that ultimately led to Mugabe, 93, being forced out and Mnangagwa coming to power.

Chiwenga’s appointment, and that of Mohadi, is a first step towards their elevation to state Vice Presidents.

Analysts say the development is further evidence of the level of influence the army is now gaining in Zimbabwean politics.

“It was almost a given that he was going to get that position,” says Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni, a professor with the University of South Africa.

“He played an instrumental role in the transition from Mugabe to Mnangagwa. There was no other way to pay him back or to thank him except to give him the Deputy Presidency.”

Two other top military officials were also awarded ministerial posts earlier in December.

Ex-air force chief Perrance Shiri became the new Lands and Agriculture Minister and the General who announced the military takeover, Sibusiso Moyo, is the new Foreign Affairs Minister.

Another senior military officer has also been appointed Zanu-PF political commissar, a position equivalent to organising secretary.

“The intervention of the military in the political affairs (of the country), I don’t think it’s good for democracy. It’s fearsome in the sense that we don’t know as we move into next election, what will be the role of the military in maintaining what has been constructed so far,” says Ndlovu-Gatsheni.

Zimbabwe is due to hold general elections by July 2018.

Since he took over office, Mnangagwa has pledged to mend strained relations with the West and introduce measures to revive the country’s moribund economy, including overhauling a controversial law that limited foreign business ownership and fighting corruption.

He has also reached out to the millions of Zimbabweans who fled the country under Mugabe’s rule to return home.

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