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Beware the ides of March



IN the life of nation states, political events have this uncanny tendency of appearing to unfold at snail’s pace for months or even years, only to usher in dramatic change at critical historical moments in the blink of an eye.

It was Vladimir Lenin who memorably said: “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”

In the current Zimbabwean polity, there is an overwhelming sense that this country is on the cusp of something utterly unforgettable. The inevitability of the moment cannot be denied.

Those who thought they had achieved a masterstroke by hounding and silencing opposition leader Nelson Chamisa are in for a rude awakening. They must budget for non-stop drama.

The calculus of political strife has shifted from Zanu PF versus CCC to Zanu PF versus Zanu PF. Elite cohesion within the ruling party is facing an acid test whose outcome may redefine national politics in ways that could yet surprise Zimbabweans.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s third-term bid has focused the spotlight on the thorny succession question. Citizens should fasten their seatbelts; there is massive turbulence ahead.

Recently, an epic spectacle stunned onlookers when Zanu PF bigwigs, including Vice-President Kembo Mohadi and Masvingo provincial minister Ezra Chadzamira, publicly chanted the “Mnangagwa 2030” slogan. They are actively campaigning for Mnangagwa to clinch a third term in office.

Zanu PF’s Masvingo provincial chairperson Robson Mavhenyengwa and the party’s youth league in that province also called for the extension of Mnangagwa’s tenure during a National Youth Day event on 21 February. Clearly, something is brewing.

Mnangagwa, who was catapulted to power on the back of a military coup in 2017, has not rebuked those who are campaigning for his third term. It is trite that nobody chants a slogan in Zanu PF without authorisation from higher up.

And “wrong” slogans seldom go unpunished. In any case, it would be irresponsible of Mnangagwa to keep quiet when his name is being chanted by men who are intent on brazenly desecrating the constitution. His silence speaks volumes.

Seasoned political watchers have noted that Mnangagwa’s manoeuvres since he stepped into State House have pointed to an entrenched power consolidation and retention agenda.

The facts are self-evident. The manner in which he singlemindedly (some will say ruthlessly) reconfigured the military command element; the way in which he purged the ranks of those who had placed him at the helm; the appointment of his children, relatives and clansmen to important public posts. Taken cumulatively, these are not the actions of a ruler who is preparing to walk into the sunset; this is the gambit of a man dazzled by the irresistible allure of sweet power.

Seeking a third term in office when the national constitution allows only two terms will have serious consequences, not least endangering national survival. By attempting to stay in power beyond the constitutionally mandated term limits, President Mnangagwa risks undermining democratic principles and institutions.

This will lead to a concentration of power in the hands of one man, further eroding checks and balances. Since Independence in 1980, the heroic masses of Zimbabwe have fought gallantly against a one-party state; they can never accept one-man rule.

Pushing for a third term could destabilise not only Zanu PF but also state institutions, with potentially devastating consequences. Violating term limits to cling to power goes against democratic norms and could lead to Zimbabwe facing international condemnation and isolation.

Mnangagwa should not forget that the August 2023 election he thinks conferred him with legitimacy and credibility was openly rubbished by the Southern African Development Community and other notable groupings.

Zimbabwe has already suffered immensely as a result of Zanu PF misrule. When you add to the mix the latest third-term madness, the negative consequences for the country’s economy, foreign relations and overall standing in the global community would be too ghastly to contemplate.

There can be only three reasons why Mnangagwa would seek to cling onto power in a clumsy manner: power and control; personal gain, and; fear of retribution for crimes against the people.

But Zimbabweans must draw a line in the sand and resolutely oppose the undemocratic culture of rulers seeking to extend their stay in power beyond constitutional limits. Have we forgotten the lessons of the Robert Mugabe nightmare so soon? 

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