Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander Constantino Chiwenga addresses a press conference at KGVI military barracks in Harare. 13/11/2017. SOURCE: ANA

Johannesburg – On Monday, Zimbabwe’s military chief sternly rebuked the country’s ruling party in a rare direct criticism of President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF. On Tuesday, tanks headed for Harare. But who is Defence Force Commander Constantino Chiwenga?

Chiwenga, born in 1956, is a somewhat controversial figure. He and his first wife Jocelyn, who he divorced in 2014 and she accused him of being an abusive husband, are on a list of EU sanctions, which were imposed on Zimbabwe in 2002 for human rights abuses and an attack on democracy under Mugabe. They are both banned from entering the EU or the United States. During his divorce from Jocelyn, the enormous amount of wealth he accumulated over the years, including expensive real estate in Harare’s affluent suburbs, was exposed.

Awarded a doctorate in ethics by the University of KwaZulu-Natal in 2015, he has also been accused of strong political ambition. In 2011 two senior Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) army generals described him as a “political general” with “little practical military experience”.

WATCH: Could the army be preparing for a coup in Zimbabwe?

Chiwenga climbed the military ranks during the country's liberation struggle against white rule. He joined the struggle in 1973, rising from private to brigadier-general. Chiwenga trained in Mozambique with the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA). He rose through the ranks to become a provincial commander for Masvingo/Gaza Province and was later promoted to the high command in 1978 to the post of ZANLA deputy political commissar. In 1981 he joined the newly formed Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) as a brigadier commanding the First Brigade in Bulawayo and was later promoted to the rank of major-general. On the formation of Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) in 1994, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-general.Upon the retirement of General Vitalis Zvinavashe in 2004, he was promoted to the rank of general and commander of the ZDF.WATCH: Could the army be preparing for a coup in Zimbabwe?

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Chiwenga climbed the military ranks during the country's liberation struggle against white rule. He joined the struggle in 1973, rising from private to brigadier-general. Chiwenga trained in Mozambique with the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA). He rose through the ranks to become a provincial commander for Masvingo/Gaza Province and was later promoted to the high command in 1978 to the post of ZANLA deputy political commissar. In 1981 he joined the newly formed Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) as a brigadier commanding the First Brigade in Bulawayo and was later promoted to the rank of major-general. On the formation of Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) in 1994, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-general.Upon the retirement of General Vitalis Zvinavashe in 2004, he was promoted to the rank of general and commander of the ZDF.

The 51-year-old commander took centre stage this week when he said Zanu PF had been infiltrated by counter-revolutionaries who wanted to destroy it and that “drastic action” needed to be taken immediately. “From a security point of view, we cannot ignore the experiences of countries such as Somalia, DRC, Central Africa Republic and many others in our region, where minor political differences degenerated into serious conflict that has decimated the social, political and economic security of ordinary people,” Chiwenga said.

Chiwenga was an active participant in the Zimbabwe land reform programme, subsequently securing a thriving farm near Harare. He is also the chairman of the Joint Operations Command, which comprises the commanders of Zimbabwe’s National Army, Prison Services, Central Intelligence Organisation, Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Air Force of Zimbabwe.

He is currently married to Marry Chiwenga nee Mubaiwa, an ex-model. She was once married to Shingi Kazwondera, a footballer who played for Caps United Football Club. She is also the chairperson of the Miss Zimbabwe Trust.