From left to right: Newly appointed ZANU-PF vice president Constantino Chiwenga, new ZDF leader General Philip V. Sibanda and Minister of Agriculture Perence Shiri [Tendai Marima/Al Jazeera]
Defence officials close to ZDF chief Sibanda’s office this week said Chiwenga and the ZDF Commander reached the gentleman’s agreement a few years before the military putsch of November 2017, which resulted in former leader Robert Mugabe’s ouster.
It is also coming to light that the military had long planned Mugabe’s departure from office before the coup, and that Mnangagwa’s installation as president had also been premeditated by Chiwenga and Sibanda, to give their operation a civilian face, while crafting a pathway for their own passage to State House.
This publication reported last month, that Chiwenga is now increasingly set to finish off Mnangagwa’s presidential term, through another vicious military coup said to likely involve foreign hands and players.
The revelations come on the back of vain attempts by a clique of ruling Zanu PF members who have been reported to be pushing for Chiwenga’s exit on grounds of incapacitation, due to his mysterious and complex health woes.
Spotlight Zimbabwe, can however authoritatively disclose that Chiwenga is out of the woods, and has been fairly well for over a month in China, where he has received an antidote for multiple poisioning attacks from his enemies in government and Zanu PF, thought to have been administered through his food and home drinking water. The VP’s security is now a close guarded secret of the Chinese government and an elite unit of the country’s military intelligence.
“Many people out there have no idea of what’s really going on, but I can tell you that there is a secret power deal between Chiwenga and PV (Sibanda’s first names) dating as far back as 2014,” said the defence officials based at Defence House in the capital.
“This power deal was made around the time when Mnangagwa was promoted to vice president by Mugabe. You see these two military men have learnt from the past mistakes of other ZDF leaders before them, such as the late Solomon Mujuru and Vitalis Zvinavashe, who ended up going into political oblivion despite holding the powerful office of leading the military. General Mujuru could have risen further, but he decided to go into business and retire without gaining enough political muscle. The same thing happened with General Zvinavashe, such a decorated soldier ended up being tricked by Mugabe to step down as military commander, in exchange of the vice president position left vacant by former VP Simon Muzenda, which never happened.”
Another senior official at the defence ministry headquarters, said Chiwenga and Sibanda through their pact have deviced a plan that will result in each one of them becoming president, after being appointed by the other into the presidium.
“After the Mugabe coup, Mnangagwa had wanted to appoint Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri as one of his two vice presidents, but the army blocked him and demanded that Chiwenga becomes first VP instead. Mnangagwa was going to nominate Chiwenga as defence and war veterans minister only, a position that would result in Chiwenga losing power and political influence. So he ended up becoming both VP and defence minister, and it was on that basis that he agreed to retire as ZDF commander leaving Sibanda to succeed him. Now Sibanda is going to make sure that Chiwenga becomes president, because he has the power and guns to do so. Chiwenga on the other hand, will then return the favour by appointing Sibanda to become one of his vice presidents, clearing the way for Sibanda to takeover, and without doubt leave a VP slot in the presidency for another trusted high ranking general in the army.”
There were unconfirmed reports this week, that Sibanda held a breakfast meeting with Mnangagwa for almost 2 hours at his Munhumutapa office, where the military boss warned Mnangagwa about the comatose economic situation and disgruntlement of soldiers over his leadership.
Chiwenga is now expected back in the country before the end of December, and is likely going to be acting president, while Mnangagwa takes an annual Christmas holiday for a month.
Mnangagwa has however previously opted to stay in the country during his annual vacation, amid speculation that he fears being barred to fly back home, and that his absence would make any possible coup easier to execute.
Only early this year, at the turn of the new year Mnangagwa cut short his annual vacation under the pretext of trying “to resolve” an impasse with doctors who had been on strike for a month. During that period Chiwenga was in charge, and Mnangagwa wanted to remain “in constant contact” according to the information permanent secretary.
Chiwenga has also made it a public secret that Sibanda and himself were the power brokers and kingmakers behind Mnangagwa.
In July 2018, while addressing mourners in Gokwe South at the burial of Sibanda’s mother, Yowana Kubvoruno, the VP revealed that together with Sibanda, they had come to Mnangagwa’s aid by ensuring his safety from harm and arranged for his escape into exile, after his abrupt and humiliating removal from office as vice president by Mugabe, who accused him of “consistently and persistently exhibiting traits of disloyalty, disrespect, deceitfulness and unreliability”.
“Today I want to say something I have never told anyone, a secret that has been kept between me and General Sibanda. General Sibanda is truly a brave hero,” Chiwenga said.
“When the then Vice President (Mnangagwa) was fired from government in November last year I was in China on national duty. General Sibanda called me to advise me of the sad development. I told him Cde Mnangagwa’s life could be at stake, please make sure he is safe.”
“General Sibanda is the one who orchestrated our President’s escape through the Mozambique border and he sent two soldiers one of them had no passport. They managed to safely whisk him away through the border and left him in Mozambique. They came back using the same border. When I came back we sat and insisted we want this to be a peaceful operation. Sibanda coined the name Operation Restore Legacy.”
Intelligence sources confirmed that Chiwenga and Sibanda have a good shot at landing the highest office in the land, because they jointly run the Joint Operations Command (JOC), which has long been considered to be the real power behind government.
“General Sibanda has been the acting head of JOC since Chiwenga started leaving the country for medical treatments in South Africa, India and now China, where he directly reports after JOC meetings,” the sources said.