Zanu PF maintains that only the Constitutional Court can declare the appointment of General Phillip Valerio Sibanda to the Zanu PF politburo unconstitutional, rejecting growing criticism of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s surprise decision.
Sibanda, the commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, was named an ex officio member of the politburo on October 28 during the annual Zanu PF annual conference, triggering an outpouring of criticism from lawyers and the opposition who said the constitution prohibits security service members from being active in any political party or organisation.
Zanu PF says the criticism is unmerited.
“The Constitutional Court is clearly created and alive for such matters. Anyone else claiming the right to speak as an authority or with finality is clearly misguided and a loose cannon. We unfortunately have personalities in our body politic who are prone to having engorged views of themselves and their opinions.
“Last Saturday’s announcement of General Sibanda as an ex officio member of the politburo is wrong in the eyes of a few who may consider themselves learned when they are not.
“Limiting interpretation of the appointment to one’s understanding of section 208 of the constitution of Zimbabwe alone is the result that has led to, in my view, a misguided take on matters.
“Section 67 of the Constitution, which is sacrosanct, says every Zimbabwean citizen has the right to make political choices freely.
“Let it be noted that Section 208 does not also prevent political choice but encourages members of the forces to not make partisan decisions in the execution of their duties.”
Critics are not convinced by Zanu PF’s arguments on the matter, and accuse Mnangagwa of breaching his oath to uphold the constitution by making Sibanda a partisan general.
Mnangagwa’s rivals say Sibanda can only have one of the roles at a time: general or Zanu PF politburo member, and not both.
“Zanu PF cannot keep breaking the law only to tell us to go to court,” Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) spokesman Promise Mkwananzi said.
“They must observe the law. The appointment is both unlawful and politically problematic. The general must step down if he chooses to be a politician.”
Prominent lawyer Advocate Thabani Mpofu said it was “unconstitutional for General Sibanda to take up office in the Zanu PF politburo.”
He added: “That does not require any debate, not even a dishonest one. Can you imagine the general taking up a post in the CCC? Not only is this disturbingly inappropriate, it is also vulgar.
“If for instance we were to take the decision to agitate, to carry out nationwide protests, to be civilly disobedient; how is General Sibanda going to respond to us? Will he respond as a Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces or as a member of the lootocracy that Zanu PF is?”
MDC-T leader Douglas Mwonzora, a lawyer, also weighed in, calling the appointment “totally wrong.”
“It marks a serious desecration of our constitution. It signals a serious and unacceptable conflation of the state, army, and party,” he said.
Mnangagwa, who is on his second and final term as president, is reported to favour Sibanda to succeed him and is trying to create a path for him into Zanu PF politics.
Former foreign minister Walter Mzembi said having General Sibanda “sit in a politburo where the fate of opposition parties is plotted and decided creates conflict for a military commander no matter how professional he may want to be seen.
“It’s untidy. It is these boundaries lately that relate to our state design that are being crossed with reckless abandon and disdain, and it should worry any right-thinking Zimbabwean,” Mzembi said. ZimLive