Harare, Zimbabwe | AFP | Zimbabwe’s former army commander who led a military takeover that helped end Robert Mugabe’s 37-year rule was Thursday sworn in as one of the country’s two vice presidents.
Dressed in a black suit, General Constantino Chiwenga, 61, took the oath of office in Harare, pledging to be “faithful” to Zimbabwe and to “obey, uphold and defend the constitution”.
Chiwenga’s ascent to the country’s second most powerful job has further consolidated the military’s power in the politics of the southern African country.
The new president Emmerson Mnangagwa, dozens of government officials, military and police chiefs as well as traditional leaders, attended the event held on the lawns of the president’s official residence.
Chiwenga retired from the military last week, slightly over a month after the army temporarily took control of the country on November 15, culminating in Mugabe’s resignation six days later.
Mnangagwa, who was humiliated and sacked from his job as vice president by Mugabe in November then took over as head of state.
Mugabe, 93, was ousted from power after the military intervened in response to internal feuding and factionalism in the ruling ZANU-PF party over who would succeed the autocratic leader.
Mugabe’s 52-year-old wife Grace had been positioning herself to follow her husband.
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‘We will deliver’ –
Several other senior army officers have in recent weeks been appointed to ministerial or key positions in the ruling party.
“It was logical. That was to be expected following what happened in November,” Ibbo Mandaza, head of the Southern African Political and Economic Series Trust think-tank, told AFP referring to the temporary military takeover.
President Mnangagwa did not give a speech at the inauguration of his deputies, but told journalists that the responsibility of his deputies would be “to drive the ministers”.
“The performance of the ministers will be reflected by the supervision they give.” he said.
Chiwenga vowed to “work as a team” and “deliver”.
– ‘Denigrating the military’ –
Chiwenga became the public face of the upheaval in Zimbabwe that saw Mugabe eased from power.
It started on November 13, two days before the army was deployed onto the streets, when Chiwenga went on state television to make a rare statement on behalf of the country’s military.
Surrounded by fellow defence chiefs, Chiwenga called on ruling party officials — referring to Grace and her allies — to “stop reckless utterances… denigrating the military”.
The next day tanks rolled onto the streets of the capital.
Just before dawn the following day, two military officers went on state television saying they were not launching a coup but were “targeting criminals around” Mugabe.
Chiwenga and Kembo Mohadi, a veteran politician and long-serving security minister, were then named the ruling party’s vice presidents.
Mohadi was also sworn in as the second vice president on Thursday.
The appointment of Chiwenga and several other senior army officers to government and the ruling party is seen as a reward for the army’s instrumental role in ending Mugabe’s rule.
Two other top military officials were also awarded ministerial posts earlier this month.
Ex-air force chief Perrance Shiri became the new agriculture minister and the general who announced the military takeover, Sibusiso Moyo, is the new foreign minister.