The Zimbabwe military leader, who led the de facto coup that ended Robert Mugabe’s 37-year rule last month, is set to retire, the government said on Monday, paving the way for his widely anticipated appointment as vice president.

Constantino Chiwenga is the top contender to become a deputy to the new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, one of two posts Mnangagwa has promised to fill in the next few days. Army Commander Phillip Sibanda will succeed Chiwenga as defence forces chief, a statement said.

The government also announced the retirement of police chief Augustine Chihuri, a deeply unpopular Mugabe loyalist who it said has been on leave since 15 December. Chihuri was accused by rights groups of presiding over vicious crackdowns on dissent and popular protest in the 18 months before Mugabe’s ouster.

Mnangagwa, who was sworn in on 24 November, also appointed Major General Edzai Chimonyo, Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Tanzania, to army commander and promoted a number of other senior army officers to major general.

In a sign of the military further consolidating its political power, Mnangagwa last week made three generals members of the ruling Zanu-PF party’s executive Politburo.

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