Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa appointed a recently retired army general and a defense official Saturday as the country’s ruling party vice presidents. General Constantino Chiwenga, who retired last Sunday, led the military takeover in November that precipitated the resignation of the country’s longtime leader. Defense Minister Kembo Mohadi is the other person appointed as the ZANU-PF party's vice president.
The announcement was made in a statement Saturday by George Charamba, spokesman for Mnangagwa.
It was General Chiwenga who in November led the apparent coup that forced President Robert Mugabe to resign. Chiwenga becomes the third general in Mnangagwa’s cabinet.
Opposition leader Welshman Ncube expressed concerned about this trend, which began last month with the army's involvement in ZANU-PF’s succession politics.
“There is everything wrong with the command element of the Zimbabwean national army presenting itself as war veterans belonging to a particular political party, intervening to settle the political dispute of a political party. There is everything wrong with that. There is also everything wrong with leading a coup in order to become vice president,” Ncune said.
The former law professor at the University of Zimbabwe says the army is contravening the country’s constitution, which prohibits it from being involved in politics.
At the swearing in of the cabinet, Parrence Shiri, former head of the nation's air force, who is now the agriculture minister, told journalists that as a citizen he had a right to be involved in Zimbabwe’s politics.
Arnold Tsunga, who leads the International Commission of Jurists in Africa, strongly disagrees. He says the members of Zimbabwe’s opposition and civic organizations with whom he met are expressing concern the rule of law has been overturned with the military involvement in efforts that ultimately led to Mugabe resigning as president.
“Through that process itself there was a lot of concern on whether it was a legal process and whether it conformed with the requirements of international human rights law for a change of government, because the absence of an electoral process through which there would be a change of government would put the entire process through the realm of a military takeover, which is a soft coup,” Tsunga said.
"So that was an issue of concern to civil society, and once you put the military into the fray in terms of conducting operations that are supposed to be done by civilians, but also operations that are supposed to be done by certain organs of the law enforcement agencies that are not the military, you also begin to see that the concern to the role of the military in civilian affairs and democratic governance in Zimbabwe was an issue that was raised as an issue of strong concern from everyone that the Secretary General met," Tsunga added.
That said, the stage is now set for the leader of the apparent coup to assume a key position in the Zimbabwe’s ruling party, widely seen as a first step toward his appointment to become vice president of the country.
The appointments are seen as a first step towards their elevation to vice president of the country.