Why is an 81-year-old so preoccupied with extending the presidential term limit?

Source: Why is an 81-year-old so preoccupied with extending the presidential term limit?

Hardly a day passes in Zimbabwe without news on President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa’s machinations to extend his tenure one way or another.

Tendai Ruben Mbofana

Ever since securing his second and final term, in the hotly disputed and internationally condemned August 2023 elections, talk of Mnangagwa not planning to leave office in 2028 has been topical.

However, one of the biggest obstacles standing in his way is the country’s supreme law itself, which limits him to only two five-year terms [section 91(2) and 95 (2)(b)] – the second having started in August 2023.

Even in the event of an amendment to the Constitution, in order to extend or remove term limits, according to section 328 (7), the incumbent, or someone who held that particular office in the past, can not benefit.

In other words, Mnangagwa can not expect to go beyond 2028 as President of the Republic of Zimbabwe.

Nevertheless, there is also talk of him planning to amend the Constitution so as to lengthen the presidential term to seven years – thereby, enabling him to remain in office till 2030 without technically changing the provision on term limits.

In all this plotting and scheming, there are two or three things I am failing to wrap my head around.

Firstly, Mnangagwa appears determined to rule – we all know he does not lead – Zimbabwe till, at least, 2030.

What is it about this particular year that he regards so special?

We are even hearing these calls within the ruling ZANU PF party itself, particularly through Midlands Province Minister of State Owen Ncube, with his “Mnangagwa will still be in power in 2030” slogan.

Why does Mnangagwa believe he has to be in power, specifically in 2030?

I seriously doubt this has anything to do with his so-called ‘Vision 2030’, as I am convinced, deep down, he knows (as every other Zimbabwean) that his mantra is pure political gibberish and nonsense.

With only six years to this envisioned ‘upper middle-income economy’ – where every Zimbabwean will be living in relative prosperity – we are nowhere near even one percent of achieving that goal.

This is a country in which an estimated 49 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty — earning, according to the 2023 UN classification, less than US$2,57 a day, which is the international poverty line.

I actually believe that those falling in this category in Zimbabwe are far more than the 49 percent official figure since this was for 2020 when the economy was faring relatively better than it is today.

Furthermore, everything else – such as water and electricity supply, major infrastructure, and our health delivery system – lay in total shambles.

Are we supposed to believe that a miracle will take place within the next six years, whereby we will find the majority of the population living prosperous lives in a well-developed functional country?

I seriously doubt that – what with all the grand looting of our national resources by those in power.

So, why really does Mnangagwa want to reach 2030 still in office?

Only he knows the answer!

The second thing that boggles my mind as why an individual who is already 81 years only would be expending so much energy, time, and resources on seeking to rule beyond 2028?

He will be 86 by the time his current term expires, and if his dream of another five-year term is fulfilled, that will see him reach 2033 at 91 years old.

Is it only me, or do others also find this extremely strange?

For the information of those who may not know this, Mnangagwa is already the ninth oldest national leader in the world – according to the Pew Research Centre analysis of sitting leaders in 187 UN member states.

He shares this unenviable title with US President Joe Biden, who is also 81 years old.

It will be interesting to note that, in the US, only 21 percent of registered voters are confident of Biden’s mental fitness and 15 percent his physical fitness to be president.

This speaks volumes about how the electorate views such leaders of Mnangagwa’s age.

In fact, Mnangagwa and his US counterpart fall in a bracket of only 5 percent of global leaders who are in their 80s.

34 percent of world leaders are in their 60s, 22 percent in their 50s, 19 percent in the 70s, and 16 percent in the 40s.

The youngest leaders in the world are Burkina Faso’s Ibrahim Traoré, Ecuadorian Daniel Noboa, and Montenegrin Milojko Spajiĉ – who are interestingly all 36 years old.

The oldest is Paul Biya of Cameroon, who is 91 – the only one in the nonagenarian group.

As a matter of fact, should Mnangagwa succeed in not only securing his desired third term and actually reaching that age, he will be the oldest leader in the world!

I seriously doubt Biya will still be around at that time.

Therefore, I ask: Why would someone already 81 years old be so obsessed about getting a third term, to the extent of planning to possibly violate the country’s Constitution?

What even makes him so sure that he will still be alive to reach that ripe old age?

Should Mnangagwa not be more preoccupied with uplifting the lives of millions of Zimbabweans who are currently languishing in abject poverty?

Why not spend sleepless nights planning and formulating strategies that will take the country out of the economic mess it has been in for the past two and a half decades?

Surely, would it not have made more sense than spending all that time plotting and scheming on how to rule until the age of 91 years old?

In all this, he will still be hoping to be alive by that time!

It is better to be in power for only one term – as we witnessed with South Africa’s first black president Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela – and living a lasting indelible legacy.

Than ruling for 15 years and still be reviled by one’s own citizens and recorded in history as the man who destroyed our dreams and ruined our lives.

● Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate and writer. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email: mbofana.tendairuben73@gmail.com, or visit website: https://mbofanatendairuben.news.blog/

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