Lieutenant General Anselem Nhamo Sanyatwe is a Zimbabwean military officer and diplomat who currently serves as the Commander of the Zimbabwe National Army. He has played significant roles in the country’s history, including controversial and notable events.
Role in the 2017 Military Coup
Anselem Sanyatwe played a crucial role in the 2017 military coup that took place on November 15, 2017. He was the Commander in charge of the Presidential Guard and allegedly operationally spearheaded the betrayal and attack on the late former President Robert Mugabe. This coup marked a significant political turning point in Zimbabwe’s history.
Involvement in the August 1, 2018 Crackdown
August 1, 2018, witnessed a post-election crackdown in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare. Sanyatwe, then commanding the Presidential Guard, was instrumental in deploying soldiers to quell protests. Sanyatwe was head of the National Reaction Force that used live bullets on protestors and killed 6 civilians and injured 35 more on August 1, 2018. Tragically, this operation resulted in the deaths of at least six innocent civilians and the injury of numerous others.
Testimony at the Commission of Inquiry
Following the August 1 killings, a commission of inquiry was established, chaired by former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe. Sanyatwe testified at this inquiry in January 2019 and denied the involvement of his soldiers in the killings, leading to further controversy and debate.
Controversial Promotion to Major General
In December 2018, then Brigadier General Sanyatwe was controversially promoted to the rank of Major General. This promotion raised questions and stirred controversy, particularly considering his prominent role in the August 1, 2018 Crackdown. His elevation to Major General came under scrutiny due to his association with the tragic events of that day.
Involvement in Vice President Chiwenga’s Domestic Affairs and Divorce
Sanyatwe’s relationship with Vice President Constantino Chiwenga is notable. It was reported that Chiwenga, a prominent figure in the government, sent Sanyatwe to give his estranged wife, Marry Mubaiwa Chiwenga, a divorce token known as “Gupuro.” This revelation came amid a messy divorce between Chiwenga and Marry.
Retirement and Diplomatic Service
In February 2019, Sanyatwe was retired from the army, following civil service reforms. He was subsequently appointed as Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Tanzania, marking a shift from his previous military role. In March, Major General Sanyatwe was subsequently promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General together with 3 other Generals of the same rank from the Air Force of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe National Army. The promotions came barely a month after Mnangagwa retired the four senior commanders and redeployed them to the diplomatic services.
Return to the Army and Appointment as Commander
On October 20, 2023, President Emmerson Mnangagwa recalled Sanyatwe from his diplomatic post and appointed him as the Commander of the Zimbabwe National Army, indicating a significant resurgence in his military career. Lieutenant General Sanyatwe’s appointment followed the retirement of Lieutenant General David Sigauke.
U.S. Treasury Sanctions
On March 11, 2020, Anselem Sanyatwe, along with Minister of State Security Owen Mudha Ncube, faced sanctions from the United States’ Department of the Treasury. These sanctions were imposed in response to their alleged involvement in human rights abuses, particularly directing attacks on demonstrators and political opponents in Zimbabwe.
Personal Life and White Wedding
Anselem Sanyatwe’s personal life gained attention when he and his wife, Chido Machona Sanyatwe, renewed their wedding vows in a white wedding ceremony in August 2022. The event was attended by high-profile government officials, including Vice President Constantino Chiwenga.