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.
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.
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.”