By Jonathan Moyo
IS Zimbabwe finally set to return to the pre-1987 constitutional dispensation in which executive power and authority was exercised by a prime minister a
s head of government appointed from the party that commands a majority in parliament, while the head of state is a ceremonious president elected by parliament? And will this take effect in 2008 and thus trigger the eagerly awaited political transition in Zimbabwe that would pave the way for the critically needed economic recovery?
The writing on Zimbabwe’s political wall seems to suggest an affirmative response to both questions for the reasons that follow.
With only 15 months left before the expiry of his much troubled tenure as head of state and government, it has become inevitable that when President Robert Mugabe opens the Zanu PF annual people’s conference in Goromonzi today he will finally be kick-starting in earnest the formal process of his much delayed and now deeply acrimonious succession whose disastrous toll on the country’s politics and economy have created a state of emergency.
The essence of this extraordinary state of emergency is that Zimbabwe has virtually ground to a catastrophic halt and is simply not functioning anymore as a normal country. This ruinous situation will continue for as long as Mugabe remains in office with executive power and authority.
Aware and terrified that this state of emergency has been largely engendered by Mugabe’s delayed succession, not to mention his failed policies, national security agents and political schemers steering Mugabe’s succession will almost certainly get Goromonzi conference delegates to endorse the widely publicised but scarcely debated proposal to harmonise the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2010.
No important difference will be made by the fact that the majority of the delegates will not understand the import of this proposal. After all, Zanu PF works on the basis of ignorance and deceit.
Yet the 2010 proposal is what the Goromonzi Zanu PF conference will be all about effectively. The Zanu PF official line — or lie as it were — would be that the proposal to harmonise presidential and parliamentary elections in 2010 is necessary because of a number of bureaucratic reasons, including the need to “save the country’s limited financial resources”, while also enhancing the administrative efficiency of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.
But this simplistic, and frankly false, reasoning will not convince even the most hopeless dunderheads in or outside Zanu PF. If the real issue at stake that warrants the harmonisation of presidential and parliamentary elections in 2010 is about bureaucratic or administrative issues, it should have been instigated by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and not Zanu PF.
What we have here is a political, not bureaucratic or administrative, proposal coming from a beleaguered ruling political party that is led by an equally embattled president trapped in the convoluted web of his delayed succession and presiding over an internationally isolated regime practically unable to halt the country’s economic meltdown to inspire the nation to greater heights commensurate with the full potential of its human and natural resources.
While there have been propaganda suggestions that the proposed harmonisation of presidential and parliamentary elections could be done in 2008 or 2010, one does not have to read too much between the lines to see that it is all about 2010, the year of the World Cup soccer finals south of the Limpopo.
Zanu PF is not prepared to have any popular elections for national office, especially a presidential one, in 15 months. This is partly because of the fear that such an election would give opposition forces a new lease of life to rally around a common cause or allow the emergence of a new opposition from Zanu PF itself. The biggest political opposition to Zanu PF now resides in the party’s own divided and crumbling structures. Of course, the economy is the biggest effective opposition at the moment.
But the real main reason why Zanu PF is not prepared for a popular national election to choose a president in 2008 is that it does not have a presidential candidate who can win in 2008 given the current collapse of the economy and the decay of social services underwritten by the failure of just about any Zanu PF policy one cares to mention.
As things stand, Mugabe himself cannot be re-elected in 15 months were he to be daring or reckless enough to run again in March 2008. This is because he should know only too well that 2002 was an extremely difficult re-election campaign for him such that the 2008 poll would be almost impossible for him to win. Mugabe would not want a repeat so soon of the awfully bruising electoral battle he suffered in 2002.
Neither of Mugabe’s two vice-presidents is electable presidential material. Joseph Msika has himself stopped pretending that he could ever be president someday. This is good for him and the country.
This leaves Joice Mujuru who this time only 24 months ago following the Tsholotsho saga was riding high on the gravy train of patronage politics and dreaming of succeeding Mugabe by March 2008. Mugabe himself at the ill-fated 2004 congress either deliberately misled the country or took her for a ride by seemingly suggesting she was now the anointed successor.
But things have changed dramatically against her ambitions and the snake-oil schemes of those who engineered her sudden rise in November 2004 by manipulating rules to the detriment of the Zanu PF constitution.
So dramatic have been the changes of fortune for Mujuru that, in addition to blindly endorsing the proposal to harmonise presidential and parliamentary elections in 2010, the Goromonzi conference will be remembered for putting paid to her unsustainable presidential ambitions. This is because one clear and direct intended consequence by ruling party schemers of the proposal to harmonise presidential and parliamentary elections in 2010 is to eliminate whatever little chance Mujuru ever had to become president of Zimbabwe.
It is therefore no wonder that the Mujuru camp is the most depressed over the 2010 proposal from what we hear. The camp’s loyalists and advisors are now desperately jumping around like headless chickens looking for ways to derail the 2010 proposal. It appears they have little chance of success — not winning the presidency — but throwing a spanner in the works of the 2010 schemers.
But if the truth were to be told without fear or favour, Mujuru does not have any presidential qualities to talk about and it was foolish hope for anyone to think otherwise. Since her unconstitutional elevation 24 months ago, she has proven to all that the very best she can do is to come up with an incoherent chicken and pigs manifesto. No one can really tell what Mujuru’s vision and political programme are.
What is her ideological paradigm (not paradigim as she says) and policy framework? Does she have a genuine grasp of what needs to be done to ensure economic recovery? What’s her understanding of international relations and Zimbabwe’s place in the current world order? If she has the ideas it means she has never articulated them, but it is doubtful because she can’t even properly articulate her chickens and pigs manifesto.
This partly explains why many who pretended to support her in 2004 have now deserted her. The Mujuru camp in Zanu PF now seems politically dead and awaits burial on the 2010 proposal graveyard at Goromonzi tomorrow. It will take a dramatic performance for them recover.
While the primary beneficiary of the controversial 2010 proposal will of course be Mugabe, there is a real possibility that it could also open a rare window of opportunity for Zimbabweans who are desperate for a political settlement of the ongoing crisis.
Up to now, a sticky point in Mugabe’s delayed succession within Zanu PF politics, national security and among interested sections of the international community has been how to secure not only his legacy as a founding leader with respected liberation war credentials but also how to guarantee his immunity as a probable if not certain prosecution target of not only his successor but also victims of his leadership excesses.
Events in Zambia and Malawi around the prosecution of former presidents Fredrick Chiluba and Bakili Muluzi by their respective successors have rung alarm bells within Mugabe’s inner circle and family. The lesson from these events is that he and his family cannot and will not trust any successor to protect them from possible prosecution should he retire. The way Charles Taylor was handed over by Nigeria for international prosecution after solid guarantees to the contrary by the Nigerian government with support from the African Union means that Mugabe has no reason to trust any international arrangement to secure his immunity.
With these cases of failed immunity, Mugabe and his handlers are left with one option: to find a national solution that would guarantee the protection of his national and international immunity while also allowing for a substantive change of executive power and thus a real political and constitutional transition in Zimbabwe.
It turns out that, upon critical reflection, the 2010 proposal might do just that if, as it now appears, it is implemented in such a way as to effectively dismantle the executive presidency established in 1987 with the return of the office of the prime minister after the expiry of Mugabe’s term in March 2008.
What this means is that the implementation of the 2010 Zanu PF proposal will entail a constitutional amendment abolishing the executive presidency and bringing back the office of prime minister and titular president to take effect after the expiry of Mugabe’s term in 2008.
Such a scenario, which now appears the most likely, would not require popular national elections in 2008 but only in 2010 because an executive prime minister is produced by a party that commands the majority in parliament while a titular president is also elected by parliament.
In the circumstances, and as a direct outcome of the 2010 proposal to be made into a resolution by the Zanu PF Goromonzi conference tomorrow, Mugabe could emerge in 2008 as a titular president with an as yet to emerge executive prime minister to be appointed by the president and confirmed by parliament. Both the president and prime minister would serve until the general elections in 2010 when the current terms of both the House of Assembly and the senate will expire. Thus, Zimbabweans might never again elect a president, directly through a popular vote! This appears to be the main agenda at Goromonzi.
* Moyo is independent MP for Tsholotsho.