Zimbabwe deputies sworn in

Constantino Chiwenga Picture: AFP PHOTO / Jekesai Njikizana

Zimbabwe’s former army commander, who led a military takeover that helped end Robert Mugabe’s 37-year rule, was sworn in as one of Zimbabwe’s two vice-presidents yesterday.

General Constantino Chiwenga, 61, took the oath of office in Harare, pledging to obey, uphold and defend the constitution.

Also sworn in as vice-president yesterday was veteran politician and long-serving state security minister Kembo Mohadi.

“I will discharge my duties with all my strength and to the best of my knowledge and ability,” Chiwenga said at the ceremony on the lawns of the presidential residence.

Zimbabwe’s new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, dozens of government officials, military and police chiefs as well as traditional leaders attended the event.

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 had a few weeks earlier been humiliated and sacked from his job as vice-president by Mugabe, then took over as head of state.

Mugabe, 93, was ousted from power after the military stepped in following internal feuding and factionalism that escalated in the ruling Zanu-PF party over who would succeed him.

Mugabe’s wife, Grace, had expressed an interest in succeeding her husband. Chiwenga’s ascent to the country’s second-most powerful job has further consolidated the military’s power in Zimbabwe.

Mnangagwa did not give a speech at the inauguration of his deputies, but said their responsibility was to spur on government ministers.

Chiwenga became the face of the rapid transition in Zimbabwe.

It started on November 13, two days before the coup, when he went on state television, calling on ruling party officials to “stop reckless utterances . . . denigrating the military”.

The next day, tanks rolled on to the streets of the capital.

The appointment of Chiwenga and several other senior army officers in government posts and positions in Zanu-PF 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.

Former air force chief Perrance Shiri became the new lands and agriculture minister, and the general who announced the military takeover, Sibusiso Moyo, is the new foreign affairs minister.

Another senior military officer, Lieutenant-General Engelbert Rugeje, was earlier this month appointed Zanu-PF national political commissar, a powerful position equivalent to organising secretary.

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