Efforts to prove that former President Robert Mugabe’s resignation on 21 November last year was coerced hence illegal and unconstitutional, and that the subsequent swearing in of President Mnangagwa on November 24 was invalid, have been shot down by Chief Justice Luke Malaba.
And the Chief Justice not only shot them down, but ruled that the facts were so obvious that there was not even a vestige of doubt that would have justified having the matter presented to a full-bench Constitutional Court.
A couple of fringe political groups and a handful of people had exercised their rights to apply for a constitutional hearing on the matter.
Under the law, constitutional applications have to be considered first in Chambers to see if they have any merit to prevent people using the courts for trivial ends or to get obvious facts questioned. The Chief Justice found that the resignation letter signed by the former President was clear.
As in the letter he referred to an earlier conversation that day with the Speaker of the National Assembly, who must then have advised him on the procedure to resign, it was also clear that the resignation was voluntary. The former President had also set out his reasons, to ensure a smooth and trouble-free transfer of power.
Cde Mnangagwa was then, in terms of a section of the Constitution, named by his own party as the successor President to serve out the rest of the term and was sworn in within the 48 hours required from the moment Zanu-PF gave the Speaker his name in the approved manner.
All this fits in with the rest of the facts, which the Chief Justice had no need to address.
Although the previous week the defence forces had loosely confined the former president to his residence, it is now known that he could receive visitors, in fact two Cabinet ministers opposed to the military intervention came and left that first night and that he was still able to make and receive phone calls to whomever he wished.
Whatever suggestions were made at that stage that he should quit were obviously resisted. In fact in his last television address to the nation as president, Mugabe, on the night of Sunday 19 November, in the presence of his defence and security forces chiefs, made it clear he was carrying on in the post, but would try and address some of the concerns raised in the few weeks before the Zanu-PF Congress.
What sank him was not the army, but his own party. Following huge popular demonstrations on Saturday 18 November calling on him to quit, the Zanu-PF Central Committee met on the Sunday, removed him as party leader and called on him to leave office, eventually giving him an ultimatum to resign or face impeachment.
The party felt that he was no longer fit to hold the party and national leadership and had moved so far from the ideals and principles of the party that he had to be replaced. He thought they were bluffing.
On Tuesday 21 November he found they were not. First, none of the ministers holding a voting Parliamentary seat attended a Cabinet meeting he had called, since they were attending the caucus meeting discussing the impeachment motion.
Then in the afternoon on a motion proposed by a Zanu-PF member and seconded by an opposition member, Parliament agreed to meet in a joint session to discuss the impeachment motion.
As it was now obvious that in the absence of a single dissenting voice that the impeachment proceedings would succeed, the former President wrote and signed his resignation letter.
He quit because his party, with opposition support to ensure a comfortable two-thirds majority, would otherwise throw him out.
In one way, the group approaching the court deserve our thanks, to have an explicit judgment that the transfer of the Presidency was aboveboard and totally legal.
The Chief Justice would probably have agreed, except that the group then cast all sorts of aspersions on the staff of the Constitutional Court’s registry and that caused the top judge to rule that they had to bear the costs of their application, whereas normally unsuccessful private applicants only bear their own costs.