Zimbabwe’s hopes of not completely degenerating into a military state hinges on the leadership of Lt General Phillip Valerio Sibanda. Amidst the chaos and uncertainty following the November coup, Sibanda has remained in the shadows only coming out to make statements when presiding over graduations and pass-out parades.
A source within the army indicated that Sibanda was offered the position of Vice President of Zimbabwe . He however rejected the position citing that he has always been a soldier and would not be comfortable being in the political limelight.
Philip Valerio Sibanda is also believed to have watered down the coup advising General Chiwenga and Emmerson Munangagwa to follow the constitutional process to get Mugabe out.
“Amidst all the hullabaloo Lt General Sibanda has been the voice of reason and steady” The source added.
Amidst all the hullabaloo Lt General Sibanda has been the voice of reason and steady
There are rumors that both Mnangagwa and Gen Chiwenga are apprehensive at the posibility of elevating Lt General Sibanda to Commander of Defence Forces. They are unsure of whether he will follow through with calls to use the army to push their interests.
Those who have worked with Lt General Sibanda from the liberation war times attest to his unwavering professionalism.
Lt General Sibanda hails from Midlands and attended his secondary education at Marist Dete. Phillip left the country in 1973. He received military training at Morogoro under the likes of Retired Brigadier Ambrose Mutinhiri.
In 1974 after completing his training in Tanzania him ad four others: Elisha Gagisa (Stanely Nleya ), Elias Ndou, Abel Mazinyane and Joel Dambudzo were sent to Lebanon where they spent 9 months of rigorous training under the Palestinian Liberattion Organization at Jalub. He even saw combat against the Israelis.
Upon his return In 1975 he became an instructor at the newly opened Mbwembwesi training camp in Tanzania. He was then seconded to form part of the military commanders running Morogoro under the ZIPA. Among the Morogoro-based Zanla Commanders in Zipa were Contsantine Chiwenga (commissar), Perence Shiri and Augustine Chihuri (Stephen Chocha). From ZIPRA there was Eddie Sigoge Mlotshwa and Sam Fakazi. He also became the commander of the GC-B region.
After the death of Nikita Mangena in 1978, he became camp commander for the CGT (Communist Guerrilla Training) camp, located about 60 miles east of Lusaka. He was initially appointed to the ZPRA High Command as chief of training however he swapped that position with Eddie “Sigoge” Mlotshwa for Chief Of Reconnaissance leading the Military Intelligence department.
Philip Valrio Sibanda was attested into the Zimbabwe National Army at independence. He quickly rose through the ranks , by 1994 he was the only ex-ZIPRA cadre to have rose to the rank of Major-General.
Between October 1995 and April 1998 he became the head of United Nations Angola Verification Mission (UNAVEM III) and subsequently MONUA (Mission d’Observation des Nations Unies à l’Angola) as the Force Commander charged with peace and national reconciliation.
Sibanda was appointed Zimbabwe National Army commader in December 2003.