When Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa immobilised the military from running elections as they illegally had done mainly since 2000 at the height militarisation of politics in fear of bhora musango (internal sabotage) and replaced it with Forever Associates Zimbabwe (Faz), a Central Intelligence (CIO)-controlled hybrid securocratic entity that eventually ran the polls, the big question subsequently became: What will the army do?
Meanwhile, Mnangagwa’s surprise appointment of Lieutenant-General Anselem Nhamo Sanyatwe – his main internal political rival, Vice-President retired General Constantino Chiwenga’s closest military ally – as the new Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) commander partly answers that question.
This has set the stage for some renewed political brinkmanship between Mnangagwa and Chiwenga.
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Sanyatwe, the last commander Mnangagwa would want to trust after he operationally spearheaded the betrayal and attack on the late former president Robert Mugabe during the November 2017 coup, replaced Lieutenant-General David Sigauke who retired recently.
Sigauke, a controversial army commader on United States ans United Kingdom targeted sanctions, replaced the late Lieutenant-General Edzai Chimonyo in 2021.
Before Sigauke came in, Mnangagwa and Chiwenga had fiercely fought over the proposed appointment of Lieutenant-General Engelbert Rugeke as the ZNA commander.
Chiwenga wanted Rugeje, his close ally, to take charge, but Mnangagwa refused.
A compromise was reached to place Sigauke in charge for two years.
So the coming in of Sanyatwe, who is unquestionably loyal to Chiwenga and can’t be swayed to the incumbent’s side, signals a victory for the military over Mnangagwa’s politics.
Now going forward, the new question is: Who will blink first? Mnangagwa or Chiwenga