President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga are reportedly in disagreement over the appointment of the next Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) commander following the death of Lieutenant-General Edzai Chimonyo on 8 July.
The NewsHawks reported military sources as saying Chiwenga is pushing for the appointment of retired Lieutenant-General Engelbert Rugeje to the post while Mnangagwa is said to be still searching for a suitable candidate. Said the source:
This is a big issue because the President and his deputy have different political agendas on who should replace Chimonyo.
The President is still searching among the serving and retired senior commanders for the most suitable candidate, while his deputy is dead set on ensuring Rugeje gets the job.
Although it is the commander-in-chief who has the final say, the process is consultative, hence clashing designs and manoeuvres.
The new commander is supposed to have been appointed by the time Zimbabwe commemorates Heroes and Defences Forces holidays on 9 August and 10 August respectively.
It’s raising tensions between them because it is a critical appointment with implications for power dynamics and how the unresolved leadership issue between them will be settled.
Another source was quoted as saying there is a consultation team that is currently liaising and will make a recommendation to the President. Said the source:
There is a board or consultation team which includes the minister of Defence (Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri), the permanent secretary (Mark Gray Marongwe), the immediate past CDF (Commander Defence Forces, Chiwenga) and the current CDF (Lieutenant-General Phillip Valerio Sibanda.
They are currently having consultations before they make a recommendation to the President.
Rugeje is the favourite – he has the right qualifications, experience and support within the military, but the problem is politics. Mnangagwa doesn’t want him.
Rugeje was part of Chiwenga’s core military team which put Mnangagwa to power through the coup against the late former president Robert Mugabe.
Mnangagwa appointed Rugeje ZANU PF Political Commissar ahead of the 2018 harmonised elections.
About a year after the election, in June 2019, Mnangagwa removed Rugeje as commissar and appointed Matematanda as head of the commissariat.
Rugeje had been removed with a promise that he would be deployed to head the Zimbabwe National Defence University, but Mnangagwa left him in the lurch. The source added:
Mnangagwa does not want Rugeje, whom he knows to be one of Chiwenga’s strongest and fearless allies. That’s why he removed him from heading the ZANU PF commissariat after the 2018 polls.
He didn’t want him there in the first place. But Chiwenga wants Rugeje to take over, hence the collision course.