Faith Zaba/Tendai Marima
ARMY generals, police and prison chiefs’ wings will be clipped under the new constitution which if adopted is expected to limit their tenures in office to a maximum two five-year terms.The new draft constitution, which is now 98% complete, also proposes to limit the terms of office of the president and permanent secretaries to two tenures of five years each.
Political negotiators and their experts say this would ensure the president, top civil servants and service chiefs do not overstay and end up feeling entitled to office as is happening now.
Due to lack of term limits, President Robert Mugabe has been in power for 32 years without a break, while high-ranking army and police commanders, as well as other state security service chiefs have been there for years. Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri has been at the helm since 1991. He is one of the partisan service chiefs who have openly expressed their allegiance to Mugabe and Zanu PF. Mugabe recently unilaterally renewed contracts for service chiefs who are seen as key to Zanu PF’s election strategy.
The new constitution would also effectively force Mugabe to deal with his complex succession issue after the Copac management committee agreed to a clause that would require presidential candidates to choose two running mates in an arrangement similar to that of the United States where each candidate has a running mate who automatically becomes vice-president.
One of the party negotiators yesterday said they were all in agreement on the issue of running mates.
If the proposal is adopted, Zimbabweans would elect the president and two deputies as a team. This means Mugabe would be forced to choose a first vice-president and a second vice-president in his preferred succession order, partly indicating his succession preference.
Given the succession dynamics in Zanu PF and Mugabe’s age and health failures, the forthcoming elections, most probably next year, would be historic and structurally different from any previous ones.
Asked what this would mean to Zanu PF, senior party officials told the Zimbabwe Independent that the choice of running mates was likely to have a bearing on succession in both Zanu PF and the MDC-T where the leaders are coming under growing pressure from their lieutenants to quit or renew their hierarchy.
“The proposed clause might help resolve the succession issue. The new constitution will force Mugabe to indicate his choice for a successor,” a senior politburo member said.
“Whichever way he chooses, he has to consider the regional balance. People are waiting to see if he will go by the Zanu PF hierarchy, which puts Vice-President Mujuru and Vice-President John Nkomo as frontrunners, or he will choose, like in the American system, whoever he wants.”
MDC-T sources said party leader Morgan Tsvangirai would also be in a dilemma. According to the party hierarchy, Thokozani Khupe is number two followed by party chairman Lovemore Moyo, both from the same region. Secretary-general Tendai Biti is ranked fourth, but is said to harbour presidential ambitions.