President Emmerson Mnangagwa is poised to name Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General Phillip Valerio Sibanda as his second vice president, former minister Jonathan Moyo claimed on Thursday.
Mnangagwa, facing a challenge from his current deputy Constantino Chiwenga ahead of a congress in December, is reportedly planning to retire Sibanda from the military and name him as successor to Kembo Mohadi who resigned in shame in March last year following a sex scandal.
Moyo, now living in exile in Kenya following a 2017 military coup that ousted the late former president Robert Mugabe, also claimed that Air Marshal Elson Moyo, the Air Force of Zimbabwe commander, would succeed Sibanda.
He tweeted on Thursday: “In what appears to be a double whammy to his political detractors in and outside Zanu PF ahead of the party’s 2022 congress and the 2023 polls, Emmerson Mnangagwa is set to appoint CDF Phillip V. Sibanda as state VP to replace Mohadi and will replace Sibanda with Air Marshal Elson Moyo as CDF.”
Moyo claimed Sibanda’s appointment was “imminent”, adding: “Preparations to set up his VP office, including staff recruitment, are already underway.”
According to Moyo, who served Mugabe as minister of information and later as higher education minister, Mohadi’s position as vice president and second secretary in Zanu PF is now “endangered.”
Moyo’s claims could not be independently verified, but it is believed he maintains contacts with senior Zanu PF officials and some elements in the military.
Mnangagwa’s spokesman George Charamba last week said the Zanu PF leader would not be stampeded into announcing Mohadi’s successor.
“It’s a prerogative of the president to decide when to appoint a minister or a vice president,” Charamba said, reactoing to calls made by MPs in parliament for the second vice presidency vacancy to be filled.
Mnangagwa’s latest move comes amid swelling rumours of a growing rift with Chiwenga, who reportedly insists that they had a “gentleman’s agreement” following the 2017 coup that Mnangagwa would serve one term and hand over to him, and he in turn would handover to Sibanda. Chiwenga was the ZDF commander when he executed that coup.
On Tuesday, Mnangagwa was forced into an embarrassing U-turn – allegedly by Chiwenga and military chiefs – when he declared the late Major General Godfrey Chanakira a “national hero,” just two days after he had conferred him the lesser honour of a “state-assisted funeral.” The political gaffe could be behind Mnangagwa’s latest manouvres to arrest the fallout from the incident, which critics say has weakened his authority.
Accused of elevating his Karanga clansmen to crowd senior positions in government and public institutions, Mnangagwa would have a vice president and ZDF commander all hailing from Mberengwa – his home district – if Moyo’s predictions are accurate.
Sibanda fought in the 1970s war of independence on the side of ZIPRA, whose political arm, ZAPU, has held one of the two vice president positions since 1990. Mnangagwa would feel, with the appointment, that he has satisfied terms of a 1987 ‘unity accord’ between Zanu and ZAPU, requiring that one of the two state vice presidents be ex-ZAPU.
Chiwenga, a Zezuru, is reported to be planning some kind of challenge to Mnangagwa’s leadership of Zanu PF, with a congress planned for later this year the stage for the contest to play out.