Fungi Kwaramba 17 November 2017
HARARE – The commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF), General
Constantino Chiwenga, was late last night locked in hard negotiations with
his commander-in-chief, President Robert Mugabe, as the belligerent
parties tried to no avail to break a political impasse that followed the
military’s seizure of power mid this week.
Chiwenga led the military in the dialogue mediated by a special mission
dispatched to Harare on Wednesday by South African President Jacob Zuma,
in his capacity as chairman of the Southern African Development Community
Well-placed sources said the talks had to be conducted at State House,
Mugabe’s official residence, after Chiwenga declined to meet the Zanu PF
leader at his private residence in the leafy Borrowdale suburb.
As the negotiations dragged into late hours yesterday, sacked vice
president Emmerson Mnangagwa returned home, perhaps to join military
leaders at the negotiating table.
Mnangagwa looks like the army’s favourite to lead a post-Mugabe transition
being resisted by the Zanu PF leader, which might involve Morgan
Tsvangirai, leader of the main MDC opposition party, and former vice
president Joice Mujuru, who now leads the National People’s Party.
At the time of going to print, Zuma’s special envoys – South Africa’s
minister of Defence Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and minister of State
Security, Bongani Bongo – were about to return to South Africa
empty-handed, after failing to break the impasse.
The negotiations were also attended by Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi,
State Security minister Kembo Mohadi and Roman Catholic cleric, Father
Fidelis Mukonori, among others.
In Gaborone, Botswana, regional leaders who were meeting to discuss the
political crisis in Zimbabwe wrapped up their meeting without finding a
solution to it.
A statement released at the end of the Sadc Organ Troika recommended that
a special emergency summit to discuss the tense situation in the former
The Troika, however, made it clear that the military should respect the
national charter and that the region will not countenance a coup.
This came as the United Nations indicated yesterday that it is monitoring
developments in Zimbabwe.
As the curtain fell on Mugabe, whose 37-year grip on Zimbabwe came to an
end in the early hours of Wednesday following an intervention by the
military, the country seems to be on the verge of a new dispensation.
Mugabe is currently under house arrest following Wednesday’s seizure of
As it is, according to the military, Mugabe is still president, meaning
that there is still constitutional rule and therefore negotiations
currently underway are meant to persuade the veteran Zanu PF leader to
resign and make way for a transitional government.
The military has been careful with its selection of words describing its
intervention saying it has not staged a coup but “intervened” to remove
criminals around Mugabe.
Constitutionally, if Mugabe retires, the last person to act as president
will assume duties for 90 days and then Zanu PF can convene an
extra-ordinary congress to nominate a new president who will complete
At present, there is a crisis as the last person to act was Mnangagwa, who
filled in for Mugabe when he was attending the World Health Organisation
conference in mid October.
However, Mnangagwa was sacked from both Zanu PF and government, which
means that certain legal headaches must be resolved first for him to
Legal experts say according to the new Constitution, both the National
Assembly and the Senate should have upheld his sacking but this was not
done. This should also have applied to Mujuru.
According to Section 97 of the Constitution which deals with the removal
from office of the President or Vice President:
(1) The Senate and the National Assembly, by a joint resolution passed by
at least one-half of their total membership, may resolve that the question
whether or not the President or a Vice President should be removed from
office for –
(a) serious misconduct;
(b) failure to obey, uphold or defend this Constitution;
(c) wilful violation of this Constitution; or
(d) inability to perform the functions of the office because of physical
or mental incapacity;
should be investigated in terms of this section.
(2) Upon the passing of a resolution in terms of subsection (1), the
Committee on Standing Rules and Orders must appoint a joint committee of
the Senate and the National Assembly consisting of nine members reflecting
the political composition of Parliament, to investigate the removal from
office of the President or Vice President, as the case may be.
(3) If –
(a) the joint committee appointed in terms of subsection (2) recommends
the removal from office of the President or Vice-President; and
(b) the Senate and the National Assembly, by a joint resolution passed by
at least two-thirds of their total membership, may resolve that the
President or -Vice President, as the case may be, should be removed from
office; the President or Vice President thereupon ceases to hold office.
This did not happen in the cases of both Mnangagwa and Mujuru, which
presents a window of opportunity for those negotiating for the former
Justice minister to bring him back into government on a technicality.
But for this to sail through, it needs the endorsement of Parliament and
other key stakeholders, hence the mooted transitional authority comprising
the MDC, the National People’s Party, Dumiso Dabengwa’s Zapu and others.
Political parties and analysts say the country must move with speed to put
in place a transitional government that should steer the country towards
elections, which may have to be postponed due to seismic developments
which took place this week.
Elections were due to be held next year before August.
Mnangagwa is tipped to lead the transitional government which could
possibly include leaders of the opposition such as Tsvangirai.
For that to happen, Mnangagwa will have to either be re-instated as VP and
go to congress where he would secure the vote from Zanu PF to become new
leader of the former liberation movement.
Or, Parliament could simply reverse the constitutional violations by
Mugabe which relate to the removal of the VP and re-instate him.
Political analysts yesterday told the Daily News that it was important for
the country to move forward and implored the military to kick-start the
process of a political transition.
“What has happened has happened, this is time when we should move forward.
If they (the military) are saying Mugabe is head of government, let him be
seen as the president.
“There must be a negotiated transitional authority which takes into
account the Constitution. We are proposing a national transitional
authority and it should not contain those who are current actors, it must
be a non partisan, not even some of us who are pushing it should be
“Parliament should come up with an executive that runs government and
effects necessary reforms that will lead to free and fair elections in
about two and three years,” said Ibbo Mandaza, a local political analyst.
Stephen Chan, a Professor of World Politics at the School of Oriental and
African Studies at the University of London in the United Kingdom, said he
was hoping for a coalition government.
“We can only await developments. The shape of the new government will
reveal intentions and plans. I hope there is the offer of a coalition
government,” said Chan.
Constitutional lawyer Alex Magaisa also agreed that a transitional
government was the best foot forward for Zimbabwe at the moment.
“Zimbabwe is due to hold elections next year. That may now be postponed as
the country finds its feet after this radical disturbance to the
“Meanwhile, some “transitional authority” made up of diverse elements,
including the opposition – ostensibly to fix and take the country forward
– may be patched up to run the country, with the promise to prepare for
democratic elections in the near future,” said Magaisa.
Whether Mnangagwa will strike a deal with Tsvangirai or go it alone still
remains unclear. Few will, however, be surprised if they strike a deal
because they have previously been said to have a working relationship.
In the early 2000, it was revealed that Tsvangirai had talked with
independent mediators on behalf of Mnangagwa, who was the Speaker of
Parliament then, and the then commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces,
The MDC leader was later to reveal that “they wanted my assurance that if
Mugabe retired, the MDC would take part in a transition towards new
Tsvangirai named retired army colonel Lionel Dyke, a close associate of
both men, as a mediator.
Recently, Reuters reported that Mnangagwa was envisaging cooperating with
Tsvangirai to lead a transitional government for five years with the tacit
backing of some of Zimbabwe’s military and Britain.
Meanwhile, The African Union (AU) commission chairperson, Moussa Faki
Mahamat, said they were closely following the developments in Zimbabwe.
“He urges all stakeholders to address the current situation in accordance
with the Constitution of Zimbabwe and the relevant instruments of the
African Union, including the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and
Governance,” the AU said in a statement.
“The chairperson of the Commission expresses the commitment of the African
Union to working closely with the Southern African Development Community
and the leaders of the region, and to support their efforts. In this
regard, the African Union associates itself with the statement made by
President Jacob Zuma of South Africa on behalf of Sadc.”