Columnist/Opinion

Can ED really be trusted?

BY Tendai Ruben Mbofana

So Zimbabwe President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa yesterday (4th July 2024) finally publicly announced that he would not be seeking a third term in office.

This surprise announcement comes after months of intense speculation amongst Zimbabweans over his intentions.

There was widespread cause to believe that he intended to stand for a third term – in spite of the Zimbabwe Constitution clearly limiting the state president to only two five-year terms, as defined in sections 91(2) and 95(2)(b).

President Mnangagwa enjoying his trademark dance.

He is currently serving his second and final term, which began on 4th September 2023 and is scheduled to end in September 2028.

The suspicions were not without foundation as, soon after the August 2023 harmonized elections, a carefully crafted plot to decimate the main opposition CCC party seemed to emerge.

This ‘plot’ was ‘necessary’ since the ruling ZANU PF had failed to secure a two-thirds majority in Parliament required to effect constitutional changes

This ‘plot’ was implemented through the dubious recalling of MPs (Members of Parliament) elected on the CCC ticket through a previously unknown individual, Sengezo Tshabangu, purporting to be the party’s interim secretary general.

These recalls, despite being disowned by the recognized CCC leadership, were effected by the Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Mudenda – and even validated by the courts – leading to the expulsion of several opposition MPs from the august house.

As per the country’s laws, by-elections were called to fill the vacant seats.

However, the recalled MPs were barred from contesting on the CCC ticket, thereby effectively handing over the seats to ZANU PF.

In the end, the ruling party secured the desired two-thirds majority that could enable it to amend the Constitution.

In so doing, this raised legitimate questions as to why ZANU PF would be so eager to have the power to change the country’s supreme law to the extent of conceiving such devious plans as to use an opposition member to decimate his own party.

Speculation became rife that Mnangagwa was determined to extend him term in office beyond the constitutional 2028.

These suspicions were only heightened by ZANU PF itself – when senior party officials began chanting an ‘2030 ED will still be in power’ slogan – effectively reaffirming this desire to rule beyond 2028.

As much as the slogan was made popular by leaders as Minister of State for Midlands Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Owen Mudha Ncube, this eventually caught on like wildfire throughout the party.

Even only a month ago, Mnangagwa himself practically forced his cabinet ministers to chant the slogan at a rally in Mashonaland East province.

All these things then made Mnangagwa’s announcement yesterday in Mutare (Manicaland province) come as an utter shock and totally unexpected.

However, before we get ahead of ourselves, let us analyze this statement by Mnangagwa a bit more carefully. 

What did he actually say?

“Our Constitution says after every five years, we go to Congress. At the Congress, we choose our president. Our president should have two five-year terms.

“I have had my first term, and it ended. We went to Congress, and you retained me. So, I am in my last five-year term, which will end soon.

“I will be going to rest, and we will go to Congress to choose another leader who will follow in my footsteps. My resting days are near.”

This sounds all good, but there is a slight issue here.

In his speech, he kept making reference to ‘Congress’.

Zimbabwe’s president is not elected by any ‘Congress’ – but the ZANU PF leader is.

As such, he was referring to his tenure as the ZANU PF president – and not the state president.

In the same light, the constitution he was talking about was undoubtedly the ZANU PF Constitution.

He was in no way talking about his position as the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe.

That is where questions rise.

Why did he limit his statement only to his presidency of ZANU PF?

There may be those who opt to interpret this as meaning that only a ruling party leader can be nominated to be its candidate in a national presidential election.

Therefore, by extension, Mnangagwa was also signaling that this would be his final term as state president.

Be that as it may, why did he not articulate this point openly and unambiguously?

Zimbabweans need to note that a leader of the political party in power becoming the state presidential candidate is not automatic– and neither is it a legal requirement.

No where in Zimbabwe’s Constitution does it stipulate this requirement.

As such, the ruling party may actually still nominate someone else who is not its leader to stand as the state presidential candidate.

In other words, Mnangagwa may serve his final term as ZANU PF president and first secretary – yet still remain state president afterward.

Let me give an example.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was president of the ANC from 7 July 1991 till 20 December 1997 – nevertheless, he was South Africa state president from 10 May 1994 to 14 June 1999.

As can be clearly seen, he continued as state president even though he was no longer ANC president.

Just because Mnangagwa will be stepping down as ZANU PF president does not automatically mean that he no longer harbors ambitions of extending his tenure as state president.

That is why it was most important for him to have made this abundantly unequivocal in his statement.

Could he still be planning to remain as state president beyond 2028?

It is so hard for me to believe that all those ‘2030 ED will still be in power’ slogans – even pushed by Mnangagwa himself only a few weeks ago – were for nothing.

There is something going on here.

Personally, I do not trust Mnangagwa, and I have a strong feeling that there are other factors at play of which we are not yet aware.

I would not rush to celebrate what he announced.

My take is that this points to some serious internal squabbles within ZANU PF, especially after the damning revelations about rampant multi-billion-dollar scandals, particularly involving Mnangagwa’s close associate Wicknell Chivayo.

It is now clear that Mnangagwa is not only surrounded by criminals but has also become a huge liability to ZANU PF.

The recent panicked threats by the regime against any potential protestors were quite unsettling.

Why this intensified fear of protests when there is really no opposition to talk about?

Who really was the Mnangagwa regime afraid of?

It is quite possible there was an internal uprising or coup d’état brewing, and Mnangagwa was under pressure to resign.

It is also quite possible that this unexpected announcement was in an attempt to placate internal dissent or even a promise he made to his deputy, Constantino Chiwenga, to avoid a coup.

Let us not forget that there has been talk that these two men made a gentlemen’s agreement soon after the November 2017 coup d’état that toppled tyrant Robert Gabriel Mugabe.

It is believed Chiwenga – then the Commander of the ZDF (Zimbabwe Defence Forces), who led the military coup – did not want to take over power himself, in fear of an international outcry.

He is alleged to have entered an agreement with Mnangagwa – who had fled the country to South Africa after being fired by Mugabe a week before – to return and serve as state president for only one term.

After which, he would hand over power to Chiwenga, who would have become a civilian and assumed the position of vice president.

Nonetheless, this never happened – as Mnangagwa was alleged to have reneged on his promise by deciding to run for a second term.

This apparent deception is believed to have not gone down well with Chiwenga.

Anyone can just imagine what all this ‘2030 ED will still be in power’ is doing to him.

There were even reports of Chiwenga refusing to chant or answer to that slogan.

Therefore, Mnangagwa may be seeking to placate Chiwenga with these assurances, all in an attempt to keep any rivals at bay.

However, in the meantime, he may be hatching more sinister plans… maybe systematically eliminating all those rivals.

By the time we get to 2028, his language would have changed.

It is all quite possible.

I strongly suspect Mnangagwa is now busy working on his ‘2030 ED will still be in power’ plan, whilst at the same time giving his opponents a false hope of his imminent retirement.

Nevertheless, I am sure his rivals now know him very well and are aware that he can not be trusted.

Based on reports, he has broken too many promises made to them, especially the military complex represented by Chiwenga.

So, they may not be falling for this trick again.

That is just my thinking. I could be wrong.

● Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate and writer. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email: mbofana.tendairuben73@gmail.com, or visit website: https://mbofanatendairuben.news.blog/

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