'Zim 2', a general with political aspirations

Constantino Chiwenga: Mnangagwa will have to reward him, perhaps even making him deputy president

22 November 2017 - 06:26 By James Thompson
Zimbabwe Army General Constantino Chiwenga Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces addresses a media conference held at the Zimbabwean Army Headquarters on November 13, 2017 in Harare.
Zimbabwe Army General Constantino Chiwenga Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces addresses a media conference held at the Zimbabwean Army Headquarters on November 13, 2017 in Harare.
Image: Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP

Behind those reading glasses, army beret and imposing military camouflage, the Zimbabwe National Army's General Constantino Chiwenga - whose declaration set the stage for President Robert Mugabe's political demise - is a man whose life has always been in the public eye.

Known as "Zim 2" in his social circles, largely comprising the country's big-name businessmen and senior war veterans, he takes the moniker from Mugabe's official limousine, registered as "Zim 1", implying that he is the second-most powerful Zimbabwean after the man who has ruled his country with an iron-fist for 37 brutal years.

However, despite his swift and decisive intervention in Zimbabwean politics last week, his strategic acumen has been questioned by army counterparts who do not hold him in as high a regard as the public, whose respect he earned when he went against their seemingly invincible long-time tormentor.

According to WikiLeaks-leaked cables from 2011, some serving army generals at the time viewed him as a "political general with little practical military experience".

The cables also claimed that Chiwenga was a hard worker, a trait that was useful in his bid to cover up for his lack of military experience.

Methuseli Moyo, a former journalist and now a political commentator, said Chiwenga "certainly" had political ambitions. "That is why he is using his current position to steer the country's politics in a certain direction. He can't be risking so much when he has nothing to benefit. [Emmerson] Mnangagwa will have to reward him with higher office if their project succeeds, perhaps with a ministerial post, or even the deputy presidency.''

Chiwenga completed his doctorate in ethics at the University of KwaZulu Natal in 2014.

Online publications in Zimbabwe pointed out that the thesis contained numerous errors and questioned whether the thesis was his own work. Chiwenga's thesis was focused on double standards in ethics in UN Security Council missions.

On the home front, his wife Mary, 34, a former Miss Zimbabwe and Supermodelfinalist is a fashionista like Grace Mugabe. The couple married in 2010 after Chiwenga divorced his first wife, businesswoman Jocelyn Mauchaza. The general wrestled Mary from retired Zimbabwe international footballer Shingi Kawondera, paying a jaw-dropping $47,000 in lobola.

Chiwenga's split from Mauchaza was not amicable. Court documents revealed at the time of the divorce that she accused him of abuse and using a house they owned for black magic.

"When the safe was opened, all the people who were present ran for dear life because they were scared by what they saw. The safe was full of juju material which included an assortment of cloths used for ritual purposes, beads and animal tails,'' she told journalists.

Chiwenga claimed in court papers that Mauchaza attacked him when he was heavily sedated and from time to time would threaten to kill him with an axe.

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