ONE thing that pleases some of us as journalists who covered the 2017 military coup that ousted the late former president Robert Mugabe and led to the ascendancy of President Emmerson Mnangagwa from a sceptical and iffy perspective is that — like many other citizens — we saw through the snake-oil agenda of the power usurpers and their fake new dispensation.
Mnangagwa’s cacophony of support, including from vast swathes of the media circles, was deafening, but not convincing. There was a lot of noise and dust raised in support of Mnangagwa, but less or no substance. More heat than light. The designers and backers of his power matrix did not have a meaningful alternative and even narrative. Theirs was a convenient anti-Mugabe agenda, even though they were his enforcers for the longest.
At the risk of physical harm during those heady political days and losing our jobs because of captured bosses, we soldiered on. This has become necessary to reflect on perceptively Mnangagwa’s new dispensation is fast unravelling. Some of the issues we raised repeatedly then are now finding expression and resonance in Zanu PF itself.
Now we have come full circle. Mnangagwa is locked in a cut-throat battle with Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga over the party’s unresolved leadership issue following the toppling of the late former president Robert Mugabe.
Mnangagwa is cornered in a high-stakes internal power struggle manoeuvre over his dubious legitimacy as Zanu PF leader in the aftermath of a devastating High Court application by a party member — which reflects internal strife and his faltering grip — demanding that the court follow the precedent set by the opposition MDC-T case in the Supreme Court and force him to step down ahead of the party’s annual conference at the end of this month.
The shifts and changes within Zanu PF structures amid a state of flux are also being fuelled by the political brinkmanship fixated on the party’s delayed elective congress next before the 2023 general elections. This is over and above the main contention in the application that Mnangagwa was installed illegally through a Kangaroo Zanu PF central committee meeting on 19 November 2017.
The meeting was unlawfully convened, constituted and conducted, the High Court application by Zanu PF member Sybeth Musengezi says. The court challenge against Mnangag wa’s ascendancy by Musengezi has echoes of the messy MDC-T infighting that erupted following the death of founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai in February 2018.
Courts usually work through precedents. Musengezi is alive to that fact and reality in his application.
“I am fortified in my quest for a remedy to my grievance against the respondents (Zanu PF, Mnangagwa, Obert Mpofu, Zanu PF secretary for administration, Patrick Chinamasa, Zanu PF secretary for finance and acting national commissar, Phelekezela Mphoko, former vice-president, and Ignatius Chombo, ex-secretary for administration) by a recent judgment of the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe handed down on the 31st of March 2020 in the matter of the Movement for Democratic Change & Others v Mashavira & Others Sc 56/20, wherein the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe made a corrective intervention in the internal affairs of the Movement for Democratic Change party and made an order for the regularisation of the election of the leadership of that political party in the interests of justice despite the passage of time and the mootness of the case,” Musengezi says.
“The Supreme Court in the said judgment held that it is a matter of public importance as regards the governance of political parties generally that the leadership of the political party is constitutionally and lawfully ensconced.” Musengezi said the political stakes were much higher.
“The stakes in the present matter are much higher and cry out for the corrective intervention of this honourable court as the beneficiary of the chain of events which commenced with the unlawful special session of the central committee convened on the 19th of November 2017, the 2nd respondent (Mnangagwa), now occupies the positions of both President and First Secretary of the party and president and head of state of the country. His ascension to both those positions is tainted by blatant illegalities in violation of the constitution of the 1st respondent (Zanu PF). He cannot derive any legitimacy at all from the catalogue of illegalities which were committed in furtherance of his ambition to occupy the two offices of the party and the country.
“My fear is that once one assumes a position of political power illegally, they are prone to engaging in further illegal conduct to retain and consolidate that power. If such illegalities as were committed in propelling the 2nd respondent to the political positions he currently occupies in the party and under the country’s constitution goes unchecked, it will become the norm in the party which is contrary to its aims and objectives as enshrined in the party constitution.”