Zimbabwe Defences Forces Commander General Phillip Valerio Sibanda helped in the safe escape of President Mnangagwa when he was fired as Vice President last year, Vice President Dr Constantino Chiwenga disclosed yesterday.
Addressing mourners at the burial of Gogo Yowana Kubvoruno, mother to General Sibanda, in Gokwe’s Dera area yesterday, VP Chiwenga said he first got the information about the President’s dismissal from Government from Gen Sibanda.
VP Chiwenga said acting on his instruction, Gen Sibanda played a pivotal role in orchestrating the President’s escape to Mozambique until he got safe temporary shelter in that country.
“Today I want to tell you something I had never told anyone, a secret that has been between me and General Sibanda whose mother we are burying today.
“At the height of the madness that had rocked the country in November last year with senior officials in Government being rebuked in public places, a development which culminated in the dismissal of President Mnangagwa from Government and his then position as Vice-President of the Republic. I was out of the country in China on duty.
“General Sibanda then phoned to deliver to me the sad developments and I asked him what we were supposed to do.
“We then had a discussion and I said to him, this man’s life is in danger. He might be killed, please do everything possible to make sure that he (President Mnangagwa) gets out of the country safe and alive. Gen Sibanda acted on that instruction and the President was taken out safely,” he said.
VP Chiwenga said Gen Sibanda dispatched three security details who escorted President Mnangagwa out of the country before they returned into Zimbabwe through the Mozambique border despite the fact that one of them had no passport.
“General Sibanda managed to take out President Mnangagwa safely. One of the three security details who took the President out had no passport but they managed to return home through the Mozambique border without passports.
“This man did a sterling job which I thought he would not accomplish,” said the Vice-President.
“After taking the President out, the army under the leadership of General Sibanda remained calm, maintaining peace while the country was at a standstill until I returned.
“I returned some few days later and, we had an emergency meeting and decided to launch an operation, again when we were deliberating on the name of the operation, General Sibanda was the one who came up with the name Operation Restore Legacy, which became a huge success.”
VP Chiwenga described Gen Sibanda as a gallant hero who left some indelible marks in the country’s liberation struggle and in neighbouring countries where he operated.
He said the general’s mother was resting in peace knowing well that she bore the country a true hero.
“Gogo MaDube (Kubvoruno) played her part. She is a heroine in her own right. From her womb came out heroes like Gen Sibanda.
“Gen Sibanda operated in Mozambique and Angola and today Angola cannot talk of its history without mentioning the name of Gen Sibanda,” he said.
Speaking at the same ceremony, Gen Sibanda thanked mourners for coming in numbers to mourn with him.
“I want to thank you for coming to my mother’s burial. We know this is everyone’s way and everyone has where to stop in life,” he said.
Born on August 18 1920, Gogo Yowana Kubvoruno died on Friday morning at Gokwe District Hospital after a short illness.
She was 98 years old.