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Mnangagwa in catch-22 situation



UNIVERSITY of Cape Town constitutional lawyer Dr Alfred Mavedzenge says President Emmerson Mnangagwa is in a catch-22 situation as he risks causing an implosion in Zanu PF if he backtracks on his statements that he will not push for a third term in violation of the constitution.


On the other hand, says Mavedzenge, sticking to his promise could confer him the status of a statesman for posterity.

After winning the 23 and 24 August elections last year amid strong rigging accusations by the opposition and condemnation by Southern African Development Community, Mnangagwa has been seen to be pushing for a third term.

The scheme involved garnering a two-thirds majority in the lower house of the bicameral Parliament through use of self-imposed secretary-general of the Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) Sengezo Tshabangu who instituted recalls of opposition lawmakers.

Zanu PF officials then latched onto the infamous slogan “2030 VaMnangagwa vanenge vachipo (2030 Mnangagwa will still be there) which implied he would rule beyond the constitutional limit of his second term that ends in 2028.

However, in a recent interview published by state media, Mnangagwa said he will not seek a third term as he has no intention of violating the constitution.

“There is not an iota of evidence where Zanu PF or I, as President, has ever expressed the violation of our constitution,” the 81-year-old said.

“We in Zanu PF are very democratic and we obey the constitution.”

In an interview with The NewsHawks, Mavedzenge, who is a senior research fellow at the University of Cape Town where he attained a PhD in constitutional law and an LLM in constitutional and administrative law, said he believes Mnangagwa is not being honest in saying he is not interested in a third term.

“I think he is not being honest. He has not been so in the past.  He is giving an impression he is now okay, which is a positive thing.  It’s beneficial to both Zanu PF and outside that leaders can come and go.

“He lost an opportunity to democratise since taking over power and I think he is now in a catch-22 situation. If he does not backtrack on his promise that he won’t seek a third term, that will redeem his legacy in that regard. However, if he pushes for a third term there will be implosion within Zanu PF and even outside the party,” he said.

Mavedzenge said some lessons can be taken by Mnangagwa from the case of Guinea’s former president Alpha Condé.

Condé changed the constitution amid bloody protests from the opposition, before winning a controversial third term.

However, special forces commander Colonel Mamady Doumbouya staged a coup and placed power in the hands of the military junta.

“People reach a point where they become tired of a leader. That is what happened to Condé and back in Zimbabwe to the late President (Robert) Mugabe. So many lessons can be learnt from the case of Condé. Mnangagwa is re-aligning the military but he risks a rebellion from the system itself if he pushes ahead with the third-term bid,” said Mavedzenge.

“Mnangagwa has a golden opportunity as a leader to do the right thing by not seeking a third term. We have an example of Kenneth Kaunda (Zambia’s founding president). He was a bad leader for his people during his reign. Kaunda was terrible, including his foreign relations policy, and his domestic policy was bad, but when he died he was internationally acclaimed. He did one thing right at the end. He handed over power to Frederick Chiluba. He conceded defeat,” said Mavedzenge.

He reiterated that Mnangagwa also has an opportunity to do one thing right that can redeem his legacy which is to hand over power after his constitutionally mandated two terms end in 2028.

“He will have a peace of mind if he does that. Even if Nelson Chamisa wins the elections, he will not arrest him,” said Mavedzenge. 

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