HARARE -The new Cabinet announced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Friday last week significantly dilutes Vice President Constantino Chiwenga’s influence in the security sector, the Daily News can report.
In the previous Cabinet which presided over the country’s affairs between
November 2017 and last month, Chiwenga was responsible for the ministry of
Defence – apart from being Mnangagwa’s deputy.
As Defence minister, he also had oversight over former liberation war
In his first Cabinet as an elected leader, Mnangagwa made fundamental
changes to his line-up, including the appointment of Oppah
Muchinguri-Kashiri to the Defence ministry.
Analysts canvassed by the Daily News said Muchinguri-Kashiri’s epic
appointment as the first woman to lead the Defence ministry in the country
history, corrects an illegality that had been created by the previous
arrangement while at the same time calming the international community
which was apprehensive about Chiwenga’s role in Mnangagwa’s
Alex Magaisa, a constitutional law expert, said while Mnangagwa has dealt
with an illegality by removing Chiwenga, the move could also be viewed as
a dilution of the vice president’s powers.
“Being in charge of the ministry of Defence gave the former soldier close
proximity to the defence forces, which he commanded to execute a coup
against Mugabe,” said Magaisa, referring to the Zimbabwe Defence Forces
(ZDF)’ intervention in November last year, which ended Mugabe’s
Chiwenga was the ZDF commander at the time.
“Chiwenga’s role in Defence appears to have muddied waters over the chain
of command. There were many questions following the deployment of the army
on August 1, which led to the killing of civilians. Physically, Chiwenga
will now have to vacate Defence House where he allegedly retained an
office since his retirement from the military,” opined Magaisa.
The international media has particularly carried a number of stories in
recent weeks that seem to point fingers at Chiwenga as a problem in
Mnangagwa’s quest for international approval, which worsened after the
August 1 killings.
The United Kingdom has publicly expressed its disquiet with Chiwenga,
breaking with diplomatic etiquette last month by calling for his ouster
from Mnangagwa’s government.
This was after the army used brute force to disperse protesters in central
Harare, who were demonstrating against delays in the announcement of
results from the July 30 harmonised polls.
At least six people died as a result.
Magaisa opined that as Mnangagwa charms international capitals,
Muchinguri-Kashiri’s appointment to the Defence ministry could be meant to
mask Chiwenga’s continued influence behind-the-scenes.
“So it may not be a whittling down of power after all. These sceptics see
Muchinguri as a mere figurehead in the greater scheme of things, with no
real influence over the military. The role could have been given to
another former senior soldier, retired air marshall Perrance Shiri, who
retained his portfolio in agriculture,” said Magaisa.
Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said it must have taken Mnangagwa a
lot of courage to ring the Cabinet changes that have been welcomed by his
friends and foes alike.
“I think this move will also help not only cutting Chiwenga to size, but
also only giving him what he is capable of doing, being a deputy president
with no policy to administer. We are all aware of Chiwenga’s limitations
as far as the art of statecraft and diplomacy are concerned, and loading
him with a full Defence ministry was a mistake Mnangagwa had done, which
he came back to fix,” said Saungweme.
“This will ensure that Mnangagwa has full power of commander-in-chief and
General Valerio Sibanda plays his role as the head of military forces.
This will also help address the scaring lack of cohesion in command
structure of security forces that we saw on August 1. I am sure the
findings of the Commission of Inquiry set on the shooting of August 1,
will also help Chiwenga accept the reality that he should just remain a
vice president and not have control of the army”.
Renowned international academic Stephen Chan said Chiwenga might still
have control of the army but through proxies.
“The so-called big news about Chiwenga losing the defence portfolio does
not mean he has lost access to the military. He retains very strong
influence there. So let’s say that the Cabinet, like the election itself,
just avoids a `run off’,” said Chan.