IN A major climb down, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, has rescinded the appointment of Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander General Philip Valerio Sibanda into the ruling ZANU PF political party’s Politburo after a human rights lawyer protested against his illegal and unconstitutional conduct and threatened to sue him for delinquency.
President Mnangagwa on 28 October 2023 announced General Sibanda’s appointment as an ex-officio member of ZANU PF political party’s Politburo, which is the ruling party’s supreme policy making body, during an address to delegates attending the ZANU PF’s annual conference in Gweru.
The appointment elicited the ire of Kudzayi Kadzere, an award winning lawyer, who on Friday 17 November 2023 served President Mnangagwa with a letter of demand, wherein he gave the ZANU PF political party leader a 10-day ultimatum to reverse the appointment of General Sibanda as a member of the ruling political party’s Politburo.
In a letter written to President Mnangagwa by Kadzere’s lawyer Alec Muchadehama of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, the human rights lawyer advised the ZANU PF political party leader that his appointment of General Sibanda to the ruling political party structure violates several provisions of the Constitution.
Kadzere said the appointment of General Sibanda violates section 208(2) of the Constitution, which provides that neither the security services nor any of their members may in the exercise of functions act in a partisan manner, further the interests of any political party or cause or violate the fundamental rights or freedoms of any person.
The human rights lawyer told President Mnangagwa that his actions in appointing General Sibanda as a member of the ZANU PF political party’s Politburo violates section 208(3) and 208(4) of the Constitution, which provides that members of the security services must not be active members or office bearers of any political party or organisation and that serving members of the security services must not be employed or engaged in civilian institutions except in periods of public emergency.
He added that section 211(3) of the Constitution provides that the Defence Forces must respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all persons and be non-partisan, national in character, patriotic, professional and subordinate to the civilian authority as established in the Constitution.
Kadzere said by participating in active politics in the full glare of the public and members of the Defence Forces, General Sibanda may have committed and will commit an offence of contravening section 39 of the Defence Forces Act as read with section 36 of the First Schedule of the said Act.
He said the appointment of General Sibanda as a member of the ZANU PF political party’s Politburo had put the serving Commander of Zimbabwe Defence Forces into an invidious position of acting or being seen as acting in a partisan manner, furthering the interests of ZANU PF political party, prejudicing the interests of opposition political parties and being seen or perceived as an active member or office bearer of ZANU PF political party especially given that he was appointed into its highest decision making body.
Kadzere gave President Mnangagwa 10 days to reverse General Sibanda’s appointment failure of which he would have no choice but to approach the courts for redress.
On Saturday 18 November 2023 and in a major climb down President Mnangagwa rescinded General Sibanda’s appointment.
According to state media reports, the ZANU PF political party leader had resolved to shelve General Sibanda’s appointment saying that the “deferment” of the appointment resolves the apparent conflict with the Constitution, which regulates the conduct of serving members of the security services.
President Mnangagwa said the position will be reviewed at the expiry of General Sibanda’s term as a senior serving officer leading the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.
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