HARARE, November 17 (The Source) – Zimbabweans have suffered for long time, almost two decades to be specific. The strange part is they suffered under the yoke of one of their own, President Robert Mugabe.
This week, the unthinkable happened. We all know what happened, whichever way you want to describe it, the sum total is that Robert Mugabe is confined to the boundaries of his house, and does not seem to be exercising the executive authority he was exercising barely 75 hours ago.
The complete reversal of fortunes for him seem to also signal a possible complete reversal of fortunes for many Zimbabweans. That Mugabe is finished is not the question, what should be in debate is how to marshal him out of the system and perhaps the country as soon as possible.
A new era beckoning
Zimbabwe is at the cusp of a new era, for any era without Mugabe at the helm is a new era. Without looking at the future with a pair of rose-tinted glasses, thousands of Zimbabweans in and outside the country are suddenly seeing glimmers of hope or the horizon. The excitement and anxiety among the people is so conspicuous it can’t be missed. Positive change is all they are looking for. The lives of a whole generation were wasted at the selfish whims and caprices of a nonagenarian, who used the façade of elections to rule, who at the back of his mind, viewed himself as an emperor.
Mugabe’s rule has killed hope, creating millions of immigrants spread across the world. Perhaps the only other country in Africa that has created so many immigrants is Nigeria and Somalia. The sad part is that even after creating this huge diaspora through his feja-feja policies, Mugabe did not shy away from milking the same diaspora for his continued reign, which in recent years has contributed more foreign inflows than agriculture.
Negotiations with a stubborn man
Robert Mugabe has little shame. Its his character. But he isn’t just shameless, he is stubborn too. The military guys who marooned him at his palacious-house are very smart. They insist that there is no coup, just that they are protecting the President from criminals that had captured him. This of course is a smart move. It ensures that the fuss that often accompanies operations of this nature around the world don’t happen here. However, Mugabe has over the last several hours been stubborn, refusing to take a deal that would free from his ruinous reign millions of Zimbabweans.
It’s very tough if you viewed yourself as an emperor to suddenly be known as that former president who had an inglorious exit. He was in denial. While a deal for his exit, to either depart for a country of choice, likely Singapore or South Africa, coupled with his demands for certain security guarantees had been cleared, Mugabe got a call from Zuma who advised him that SADC was in meetings to address the situation. Afterwards, his stubbornness started creeping into the discussions as he raised constitutional questions. But ensuring his exit must be the single-minded objective of every progressive Zimbabwean and the military has opened that window.
All options on the table
Mugabe himself is in denial. Perhaps those million-man marches and those rallies gave him the impression that the people love him.
The street vibe in Harare is that even though citizens are uncertain about what happens next, they are relieved and hopeful that the man that held back their dreams has met their match, and hopeful that this is a turn that could usher them out of their misery. It will be a cruel crush of the people’s hopes if Mugabe were to either delay, prolong and/or find loopholes to delay his departure. To ensure that this never happens, all options must be on the table and must be put to work.
I am a believer in strategy, and like Mugabe did during his reign, I believe on this matter, law follows strategy.
The Goals & Options
Effective strategy requires clarity of goals and objectives. According to the statement by military chiefs when they announced their noble initiative, their intention was to step in and rescue ZANU PF because it was threatening the security, stability and economic interests of the country. Most people may have various opinions about the objective of rescuing ZANU PF from counter-revolutionaries within, but it is most likely that all Zimbabweans agree that the security and economic interests of the nation must be protected.
It is also generally agreed that it was against the interest of the generality of Zimbabweans if the G40 faction had succeeded, with the help of the President, to create a Mugabe political dynasty. We have seen what happens with political dynasties in countries like Pakistan. The vision for every Zimbabwean is prosperity! Better still, the achievement of the Zimbabwean dream if we were to commonly define and agree on what that dream is. These issues have never been top priority for Mugabe in his thirty-seven years leading our government. This necessarily makes him a stumbling block that must be set aside. So to achieve a smooth completion of the current operation, here are what I think are the options.
I) The Nuclear Option
A nuclear option is the most extreme response possible to this situation. It is a last resort but very drastic and severe in its consequences. In light of the current scenario in which the military flexed its muscles, this nuclear option means doing what normally happens in coup scenarios where the outcomes become nastier than what’s happening at present where the President and the general still sit across the table and have a conversation. Clearly, the nuclear option is less desirable, but must nonetheless remain on the table.
II) Negotiated Exit
General Chiwenga’s statement last Monday emphasized the military’s role in protecting the constitution and the Republic. This does suggest the army’s desire to uphold the constitution to the greatest extent possible. This option is more desirable, though it has complications and may necessarily drag the current lockdown scenario for longer than is necessary. It involves engaging the ageing President to resign – a legitimate demand given that it does seem the majority of the people want to see the back of Mugabe as soon as yesterday. Veritas has made suggestions on what is constitutionally possible as follows:
· The President can just quit, in which case the current Vice President can step in in terms of the constitution to finish the term. This assumes that the commanders find the current vice President Mphoko palatable, which does not seem to be the case given the fact that he was aligned with the people the military has described as criminal elements around the President. In addition, the people have very little affinity for Mphoko given his two years stay at the Rainbow Towers which resulted in several demonstrations against him. This leaves the commanders with the choice of persuading the President to appoint a new Vice President, which appointment can be done in terms of sixth schedule of the constitution. After this appointment, he can resign, to leave the new Vice President to create a transitional environment while completing Mugabe’s term.
· The president can be persuaded to dismiss his current cabinet and appoint new ministers and then resign, leaving the new Vice President acting as President. Apparently, section 100 of the constitution requires that an acting President get the approval of the majority of existing ministers before dismissing or appointing ministers, which suggests that an acting President will require Mugabe’s help before resigning.
III) Political process
This is a route that can either be pursued as an option or parallel to the above options. These options are as follows:
· Impeachment by Parliament
The military chiefs made it clear that parliament and the judiciary were not affected by their operation, and as such should continue with their business. Prior to the current situation, Zimbabwe had 210 members of the national assembly and 93 senators. The MDC had 20 members in the upper house and 70 in the lower house. Impeachment requires a two thirds majority to be done successfully, given the current dynamics, Mugabe’s unpopularity in his own party and the absence of the G40 members that were championing his agenda, its highly possible for both Zanu PF and the MDC to combine their effort and impeach Mugabe while he is confined to his house with little capacity to whip anyone. Using their free will, MPs are most likely to succeed in impeaching the President.
This approach will leave the scenario where Mphoko steps in as acting President. However, in an acting capacity, but it is easier to manage that afterwards.
· Getting ZANU-PF to vote him out as first secretary of the party.
Without a political party. Mugabe will barely have legs to stand on. This is a process ZANU PF can explore through its organs, the provincial committees, its central committee and if necessary an extra-ordinary congress. The intricate workings of this approach and the legal nitty-gritties are something their legal minds can drill down on and make sure this process is water-tight. In light of this route, it is important to note that in terms of the ZANU PF constitution, between congresses, the party’s central committee can meet and make changes to its leadership.
For those that desire that Mnangagwa lead the ruling party, it is important to note two things, firstly, that the politburo that took the decision to expel him from the party has locus standi to do so, as this can only be done by the central committee which handles those major decisions in between congresses; and secondly, the animal called the Politburo wasn’t really a party creation, but Mugabe’s creation where he handpicked a coterie of side kicks from the central committee to create a buffer against the powers of the central committee – an elected body.
The Politburo was fashioned by Mugabe as an elite club where members of the central committee would aspire to be chosen into, but it doesn’t have the powers it purports to exercise. Mugabe’s sole purpose of creating the politburo must be understood in the context of the history of ZANU, where top members used to be subjected to elections every six months – which resulted in senior members being kicked out from time to time creating extremely competitive jockeying for political positions.
· Mass Mobilization
As I noted above, the majority of Zimbabweans are very excited about the prospects of seeing Mugabe’s back. There are so excited about it that some have started a change.org petition to tell Jacob Zuma to stay out of this affair. While Mugabe has used this tactic and state resources to marshal people to his rallies as a show of public support, its clear that if asked to come and demonstrate their support against Mugabe with guarantees that no one will brutalize them, its is highly possible that millions will turn up to show the world that they are tired of the President and he must leave. However, such an approach requires engaging the military to make sure that civilians do not interfere with an ongoing military operation, which can be dangerous.
The political route, combined with the negotiated exit, must be pursued in parallel. The nuclear option must remain on the table, because when all else fails, it must still remain an option. What the generals in particular, and Zimbabweans in general cannot afford to do is to miss this opportunity to acquire change. It has been long known that the factional fighting in ZANU PF is a powder keg. Though many were surprised at the sudden turn of events, few Zimbabweans would actually claim that they were shocked by it. We all watched the series as it played on episode after another. This can’t be another opportunity to miss an opportunity. The country needs to progress and achieve its full potential and we cannot be held back by the selfish ego, whims and caprices of an individual whose life is in its sunset anyway.
We don’t even have a currency for goodness sake. The people of Zimbabwe have a destiny far greater than Mugabe has allowed them with his narrow outlook. But no man shall stand in their way, and thy will and hope shall be done. That future and hope can slightly be delayed by Mugabe’s tactics, but can never be denied. Mapping the future can no longer be the preserve of a G40 cabal. Going forward, it must be driven by a Generation Zimbabwe. – The author is a former banker, strategist and entrepreneur. He can be contacted on email@example.com.
*Acknowledgement: The constitutional options noted in this article are by Veritas’ Constitution Watch.