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By Mutumwa D. Mawere

THE constitution of Zimbabwe defines the country as a sovereign republic with the Constitution as the supreme law.

Under the constitution, the country’s Head of State and Head of the Government as well as the Commander in Chief of the Defence Forces is the President. At independence, the President was a titular head of state and the Prime Minister was the Head of the Government.

Zimbabwe has not been privileged to have any other head of government than its incumbent, President Mugabe, who assumed the role of an Executive President in 1987 following the unity accord between Zanu PF and ZAPU in 1987.

In 1987, President Mugabe was elected by Parliament as the first Executive President of the country and, therefore, his legitimacy as President was derived from Parliament and not directly from the people of Zimbabwe. In 1990, he was elected directly by the people through a popular vote pursuant to the amended Constitution of the country.

The debate that has been generated by the decision of Zanu PF to harmonise the Presidential and Parliamentary elections exposes the immaturity of Zimbabwean politics as well as the limited understanding of the constitutional and legal framework that underpins a sovereign nation like Zimbabwe. More has been read into this decision than is merited by the facts on the ground.

It is common cause that a party that holds more than two thirds of the seats in parliament has the right to amend the constitution of the country and, in fact, Zanu PF has used its majority in parliament to make significant changes to the constitution including the reintroduction of the senate last year. It is also important to note that the real casualty of the decision by Zanu PF to reintroduce the senate was the opposition that split into two irreconcilable factions with no evidence of any split in Zanu PF.

The senate debate is now gone and yet analysts would want the public to believe that the proposed constitutional amendment by Zanu PF and the procedural issues that necessitated the resolution to be referred to the party’s central committee should be taken as a sign that Zanu PF is a fundamentally divided party. No explanation is provided by these analysts about the manner in which Zanu PF has consistently and effectively used its majority in parliament to enact a series of laws and constitutional amendments without any evidence of revolt against the Executive.

It is also ironic that there has been no debate within Zanu PF about the role and functions of an Executive President like President Mugabe. The attention that has been focused on Zanu PF before and after the just ended conference confirms the allegation that the only real debate about the future of Zimbabwe has to be located within the ruling party and those who seek an alternative appear at best to be reactionary and devoid of any strategic vision.

Being an observer of political developments in Africa in general, I have come to the inescapable conclusion that Zimbabwe appears to be three countries in one and the last twenty years of a monolithic power structure has left the country more divided and confused than at independence in 1980 when the common agenda was the creation of a unitary sovereign state in which equity and growth would characterize the future.

It is important to recognise that a new nation within the nation of Zimbabwe has been created and this nation is peopled by politicians, journalists, political commentators, top businessmen (including some from the UK) and others obsessed with the country’s political crises or rather Zanu PF’s perceived succession quagmire, arguments with the Bush and Blair administration over the causal link between the economic meltdown in Zimbabwe and the targeted sanctions regime, corruption scandals, the quasi-fiscal operations of the RBZ, and the lack of action on the urgently needed economic reforms.

The second Zimbabwe is to be located in the black or parallel market where a few well connected individuals are making significant inroads into the wealth accumulation enterprises often using primitive methods. A new class is emerging in Zimbabwe fueled by a dysfunctional economic system characterized by opaque governance structures where rent seeking behavior is rewarded while genuine enterprise is criminalized. This Zimbabwe is proving to be more efficiently run without any accountability. Even the President of the country may not have a clue about the real size of this hidden economy and the extent to which his colleagues in the executive branch of government as well as members of the judiciary and legislature may be active participants in the undermining of the rule of law and property rights. Judging by the speeches of the President on matters regarding corruption, it is evident that he may be living in an ivory tower insulated from the real second Zimbabwe and its cancerous impact on the future of the republic.

The third Zimbabwe is found in the run-down private and public institutions. It is also to be found in the majority unemployed and vulnerable groups whose access to health, water, power and other essential services has been permanently compromised by bad policies. In this Zimbabwe, Christmas and New Year means nothing and yet they are told everyday that the root cause of their poverty is to be found in the conspiracy of the Bush and Blair administration or the Anglo-Saxons who remain determined to decolonize the country. In this world the opposition finds its support particularly among the urban underclass and poor. The last 26 years has seen this segment of the population increasing by the day and yet confused about the underlying causes of the political, economic and social crises facing the country. This Zimbabwe is understandably angry at Zimbabwe one and two.

Gaps between the political elite and the ordinary citizens and between poor and rich exist in many African countries but in Zimbabwe they are becoming more acute by the day partly induced by senseless policies of the RBZ. The President is convinced that a web of criminals, businessmen, imperialist conspiracies driven by a regime change agenda, power hungry Zanu PF politicians, and corrupt public officials are the root causes of the problem in Zimbabwe.

The journey of sovereignty has been complicated by a historical legacy that can provide good raw material for any politician who is power hungry. The argument is crafted intelligently in such a manner that even those aspiring for a higher office will soon realize that there is no vacancy. For how can a nation that was founded from the womb of a brutal colonial regime think of a regime change inspired by the same evil forces that oppressed the majority? Having accepted that Zimbabwe’s sovereignty has no market and cannot be auctioned to the highest bidder, it is then argued that no other political formation than those that fought for independence should be qualified to take charge and determine the destiny of the country.

It is also argued that the people of Zimbabwe spoke at the last two elections i.e. Presidential and parliamentary when they chose a Zanu PF President and a Zanu PF-led house. Given that the need to harmonize the two elections has economic and political justification, it is then argued that there is no reason to have an election in 2008 where in the unlikely circumstances an opposition President is elected but with a poison parliament, Zimbabwe will be better off than have President Mugabe who can claim that without him, it would be unthinkable for Zanu PF parliamentarians to have won the election if they had run on other political labels. President Mugabe can legitimately claim that the party was instrumental in achieving the electoral success and as such there is nothing wrong about the party deciding to harmonies the two elections and in so doing ensure that any constitutional crisis is avoided.

President Mugabe can draw comfort from global developments in Latin America where candidates with similar ideological positions to him have been democratically elected, and in the case of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, re-elected. Against a global environment that is hostile to developing nations, it is then argued that Zanu PF’s best weapon to deal with the challenges cannot be anyone other than President Mugabe.

In as much as Zanu PF has defined the agenda for the last 26 years, it is argued that any viable solutions for the country should necessarily come from the party. If the opposition accepts that Zimbabwe is a sovereign country and a republic whose source of legitimacy is the people of the country, then how can they challenge the constitutional right of a majority party to decide what is good for the country. The parliament of Zimbabwe was democratically elected it is then argued and as such has the power to elect a President to fill in the vacancy for the period 2008 through 2010.

In Zanu PF, it is instructive that there is no other individual who has dominated the party as President Mugabe and it is unthinkable that the Central Committee of the party would challenge him. If persons like Mavhaire who once was quoted as saying: “Mugabe must go” can see sense in coming back to Zanu PF and being appointed to the Politiburo, then it is argued that the prospect of anyone mounting a challenge to Mugabe is technically non existent.

Even ZAPU came to its senses and accepted the unity accord rather than trying to challenge Mugabe. In raising these issues, it is important that those who seek change invest in understanding what, if any, are the appropriate strategies of effecting the kind of political and economic reforms that Zimbabwe needs. It would be counterproductive for people to invest time and effort in analyzing what the perceived factions within Zanu PF may have in mind about the proposed constitutional changes when it is common cause that the party has only one bull in the kraal. The party has used President Mugabe to fight in every election including parliamentary elections.

Those who have observed the Zimbabweans political scene would agree that the last parliamentary election was indeed a referendum on Mugabe and to the extent that the opposition accepted to be part of the governance structure of the country on the basis of the results, they have less legitimacy now to begin to challenge the proposed changes. In a democracy, those who represent minority parties know the consequences of the decisions taken by the majority party. In fact, democracy is founded on the tyranny of the majority even if it is known that the changes they seek to make to the constitution may not have the popular support.

In as much as Zanu PF has defined the post colonial agenda, it is incumbent upon those who seek change to define the post Mugabe era without relying on any help from the same party that they seek to unseat. It is interesting that even the opposition parties are banking on Zanu PF central committee to challenge Mugabe’s hegemony instead of defining what their agenda should be. It would be fool hardy for any incumbent governing party to invest in its own demise as many are expecting Zanu PF to do. Why would President Mugabe choose to leave office in 2008 when his party has the parliamentary majority to constitutionally ensure that by 2010 the opposition is sufficiently weakened to challenge the party? Equally, the President who was against the constitutional reforms that led to the formation of the MDC appears now to be the proponent of far reaching changes that may return Zimbabwe to the pre-1987 era where a Prime Minister was elected by the Parliament. Under this dispensation, it will be more difficult for any populist opposition candidate to lead the country in the future.

What is interesting in the debates about succession is the lack of reality tests to the assumptions that inform many conclusions. If one carefully examines the Zanu PF constitutions it will be abundantly clear that anyone who is not supported by the four Mashonaland Provinces will have difficulty in becoming a leader of the party. Mashonaland has four votes where only need two votes to determine who becomes a leader. Given this structure, it is unthinkable that President Mugabe will fail to garner the support he needs to make the changes that entrench his own party as well as ensure that the party is well positioned to determine the successor. By making the changes to the constitution, Zanu PF may actually have out-witted the opposition having drawn lessons from the Malawian and Zambian disasters where successors turned against the very people who had made them.

The President’s term will end in 2008 and as such his universal mandate will no longer exist. Under the constitution, extraordinary powers have been vested with the President on the basis that his legitimacy was drawn directly from the people. It is not clear whether a President who has assumed such powers can continue to be vested with the same powers when his mandate has ended and he will only be indirectly elected by parliament. It is important that the debate shifts from the right of a majority party to make constitutional changes to the powers of the President in the transition.

If a President is elected by parliament, who is he then accountable to? What kind of role should such a President have? Can parliament elect someone who is not a Parliamentarian as a President of the country with executive powers? I am reminded that in South Africa, the President is elected by Parliament from among its ranks. The real devil is in the details and it is important that people of Zimbabwe and all Africans interested in the progress of the country keep their eyes on the price rather than focusing on irrelevant constitutional debates.

Zimbabwe may have irreparably lost its identity as a one nation with a common value system to inform its strategic choices including succession. With three nations in one, the Zimbabwean reality is more complex and confusing to lend itself to simple interpretations. A complex reality calls for careful analytical and conceptual reflections and insights that can only add value to the nation building enterprise.

The third and often forgotten Zimbabwe may in the final analysis determine the outcome rather than Zimbabwe one and two where state and non-state actors from both the ruling and opposition parties may not exhibit any distinguishing characteristics to assist citizens in making the right choices and developing appropriate actions required to transform a stolen and outsourced republic. To what extent will the proposed constitutional changes address the fundamental economic, social and political challenges that Zimbabwe faces can only be answered by those who see in political power the solution to all problems while blind to the fact that their exit may release the country to move to higher heights and deliver promise to its people without favor or prejudice.

Mutumwa Mawere's weekly column appears on New every Monday. You can contact him at:


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