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Why the Tshabangu saga marks death of democracy




VIA his proxy, Sengezo Tshabangu, President Emmerson Mnangagwa (pictured) has brazenly reconfigured Zimbabwe’s Parliament pursuant to attaining a two-thirds majority which will, in turn, act as a prelude to  removing presidential term limits and open doors to a tilt at life presidency.

In the same vein, he has turned elections into a routine sham, thereby totally delegitimising them as a tool to facilitate a democratic & constitutional change of government.

It is a watershed moment. There is no sane Zimbabwean who will continue to retain faith in the power of elections to express the democratic and sovereign will of the people to deliver change after this charade. 

There will be many who will lay the blame squarely on the shoulders of Zimbabwe’s beleaguered opposition leader Nelson Chamisa and his party CCC for allowing this to happen but, in essence, the reality is simply that they were literally outgunned and  outmanoeuvred by a desperately ruthless, determined & shameless opponent.

It is simply the case that Mnangagwa is leaving no stone unturned in his quest for a life presidency, something that eluded his mentor Robert Mugabe and culminated in an ignominious end.

Even though this writer and many other commentators have highlighted this for sometime, the opposition appeared to have been caught unawares by the scale of the operation and breathtaking brazenness displayed. 

They spent an inordinate amount of time exclusively pinning their hopes on a captured judiciary — and that is the sole strategy they deployed — perhaps apart from behind-the-scenes diplomatic manoeuvring which failed to gain traction.

It follows that if it is accepted that the judiciary is captured, then it equally follows that it does not have any bandwidth to deliver outcomes contrary to the regime’s core interests, such as destruction of the opposition and delivering a two-thirds majority in this instance.

Many argue that had the opposition registered independent candidates it would have thwarted the regime’s plans, but that is downright naïve and short-sighted. 

The regime would have simply devised other plans, including using lawfare via the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to render those independent candidates ineligible, amongst other schemes.

Many in Zimbabwe are simply too slow to realise how desperate and determined Mnangagwa is to achieve a life presidency. 

Assuming the presidency and reaching the pinnacle was the culmination of the pursuit of a life-long dream — something that he is determined to prolong as long as he can — and at all costs.

The presidency gives him unfettered power and the capacity to use the trappings of power to deliver patronage, sideline and defenestrate his opponents and achieve complete immunity from his many indiscretions.

We are now at a point where he has virtually totally emasculated Chamisa and CCC given that they are at the mercy of his proxy’s unrelenting political guillotine with the collusion of Zec, Parliament and the judiciary.

As argued in a previous post, the course of events could have perhaps been slightly if not significantly altered had urgent attempts been made to mobilise opposition supporters early on in the crisis, at a time when there was still a lot of attention on the country, including by the Southern African Development Community.

It remains unclear why no such attempt has been made at any point, even when taking into account the ruthlessness of the regime and the likely brutality that would have followed such a course of action.

This has effectively left the opposition facing a political cul-de-sac; moment of reckoning. It is now either a new political party or a long delayed (or is it avoided) mobilisation and street protests? Inaction clearly won’t cut the mustard. 

Whatever happens, it would appear the opposition faces a long road to redemption and reorganisation. It will have to deal with the aftermath of crises of frustration, expectation and deliverance. 

All hopes have been dashed in instalments. Supporters have borne the brunt of the regime’s persecutory antics, economic incompetence and subversion of democracy — so amply captured by the regime-orchestrated foisting of a desperately tainted and the scandal-ridden Pedzai Sakupwanya into Parliament!

They would have been massively disappointed to be deprived of the opportunity to vent their discontent and massive disapproval of the regime’s antics — with many of them wailing and wallowing in despair at the thought of being condemned to what now seems like a life of perpetual servitude, suffering and toiling at the hands of Mnangagwa’s exceptionally cruel and deeply selfish regime!

How will the Tshabangu saga seal Mnangagwa’s fate?

By rendering democratic elections, accountability and independent state institutions obsolete, he will now be at the mercy of other plotters lying in the deep state to pounce at the slightest hint of weakness.

As he is now advancing in age, senility, gradual or steep deterioration in reservoirs of virility will arrive at some point as unavoidable detours on the path to mortality.

As one’s destiny with mortality is unknown, it means that it is one of the few variables that he will be unable to conquer — with the caveat being that he has now entered the “zone of diminishing returns” — where each day brings him closer to it — which in turn threatens to leave his dependants and family members at the mercy of the vagaries of whatever political creature he leaves behind at that precise moment!

With the two-thirds parliamentary majority as good as sealed, Mnangagwa will now be forced to lay his political cards on the table as his next step, forcing him to unfurl his political sail and get his hands dirty to achieve amending the constitution.

Therein lies his gravest danger! With his unpopularity within his own party laid bare via his previous electoral defeats and his 2018 and 2023 returns — hence his reliance on Forever Associates Zimbabwe (Faz) and parallel structures — he will be forced to directly confront and crush equally dangerous and well-armed and connected political protagonists from his own party and state institutions and equally determined to wrest away power from him!

Just like we saw in 2013 when Mugabe thought totally outmanoeuvring the late founding MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai meant he had achieved life presidency, in reality it meant that political uncertainty and convulsions shifted to his party as the long delayed succession saga had finally been ushered onshore by a furious political tide.

It is an exercise in futility and an illusion for Mnangagwa and those who form the core of his inner circle to believe that those who also have their own political ambitions in Zanu PF and the deep state could ever welcome his tilt at life presidency, the manner in which he is projecting that power via the cabinet he appointed and the monopoly he exercises over arbitrage opportunities!


What will seal Mnangagwa’s fate is a moribund economy, a worthless currency, hyperinflation, over-taxation, formidable deep state opponents who have got time and are equally determined and the sheer scale of the obstacles he faces in trying to remove presidential term limits coupled with his age and the spectre of mortality which looms large means that, as previously concluded, Mnangagwa is politically overreaching and pursuing unrealistic goals which are highly unattainable and likely to end in ignominy!

It is one thing to tame an opposition political party which does not enjoy the patronage of state institutions and quite another to overcome a foe feasting on the same advantages you are used to enjoying and determined to defeat life presidency and perhaps nursing a festering wound grounded in sentiments of betrayal and lack of gratitude!

*About the writer: Brighton Matebuka is a United Kingdom-based local registered legal practitioner with the Law Society of Zimbabwe and as a solicitor with the Law Society of England and Wales as well as the Solicitors’ Regulatory Authority.

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