Four Zimbabwe generals retired in Mnangagwa's first purge of military

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa (pictured) retired four generals on Monday in the first major shake-up of the armed forces since he took office.

Those retired include the man who led a deadly crackdown against post-election protests in August last year.

Their removal coincided with the absence of Vice President Constantino Chiwenga - the retired general responsible for ousting former president Robert Mugabe in November 2017 and now widely viewed inside the country as the power behind Mnangagwa's administration.

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All four generals will be appointed to diplomatic posts overseas in line with Zimbabwe's "critical global engagement and re-engagement strategy," a government spokesman said.

Mnangagwa has been under pressure to take action over claims of brutality by the security forces since a second crackdown in January, triggered by high fuel costs that he had decreed.

That violence led to accusations from opposition parties that the country is reverting to authoritarian rule.

The most high-profile of the sidelined commanders was Major General Anselem Sanyatwe, who led the presidential guard and drew widespread criticism for telling an inquiry into the post-election violence that one of his soldiers caught on video shooting into a crowd was firing into the air at a 45 degree angle.

Mnangagwa also retired Major General Douglas Nyikayaramba, the defence forces inspector general who had been largely absent from day-to day operations since November 2017.

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Air Vice Marshal Shebba Shumbayawonda and army chief of staff Major General Martin Chedondo were the other two retired officials.

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ZimbabwePresident Emmerson Mnangagwa