From securocracy to democracy

THIS is the final instalment in a series of articles which constitute an introduction to a book to be published under the title Zimbabwe: The Challenges of Democratisation and Economic Recovery, edited by Dr Mandaza.

Ibbo Mandaza,Academic

As indicated in the scenarios outlined in the following sections, it is likely that the re-engagement process, as represented in part by the current efforts at economic reform, will soon coincide with inevitable, if not also, imminent and immanent political upheavals, given the self-immolation process at play within Zanu PF policy/state. If such characterisation of the last phase of President Robert Mugabe’s regime is correct, there will be required a greater level of engagement with the Zimbabwe situation, on the part of the sub-region, Africa as a whole, and the global community in general. The danger is that all these factors appear almost indifferent as Zimbabwe rolls to the precipice.

Historical precedents with respect to political “transitions” in Zimbabwe would suggest that such urgent and requisite engagement begins, as in the case of the Lancaster House talks of 1979, at the global level, with London and Washington, quietly and diplomatically, encouraging key actors in both Sadc in particular and the African Union (AU) in general, towards supporting an evolving national plan of action.

As proposed herein, the plan of action should be a contingent one, in the event that the political and economic situation in Zimbabwe implodes and deteriorates to levels that give rise to violence and bloodshed. Therefore, the contingent plan should be a requisite as to thereby pre-empt a possible violent and bloody end to the securocratic state. It consists of three interrelated processes:

Facilitation team: On the basis of appropriate diplomatic consultations between key Sadc, AU and global factors, there should be an individual, or a team of no more than three persons who can, at an appropriate moment within the coming weeks, months or years, engage Mugabe (and the First Lady Grace) in confidence, highlighting both the crisis and potential for violence and thereby also offer the option of safe passage for him, his family and close associates. The main objective of such a closely-guarded initiative would be two-fold: to pre-empt or minimise the possible violent and bloody confrontation between the factions in Zanu PF party/state in the first instance, or the kind of mass uprisings that might accompany such an end of the regime; and to facilitate and kick-start the next process.

The National Transitional Authority (NTA) and its Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC): The NTA should be composed of about 10 persons, all of whom recognised for both non-partisanship and technocratic backgrounds, and led from among them by a prominent citizen of unquestioned stature, dignity and integrity. As such, no member of the NTA should harbour political ambitions or seek office in government after the tenure of the NTA. The role of the NTA would be to govern the country until the next elections, to be held only after the requisite and full implementation of the national constitution (which will also need the necessary amendments such as those provisions left hanging or denying the vote to Zimbabweans in the diaspora), electoral reform and the kind of economic reforms.

A TRC will need to be instituted under the NTA to probe the atrocities of the post-Independence period, cause the perpetrators to confess and be pardoned or punished, as the case may be; and to provide the agency through which the nation can heal after a tumultuous post-Independence period.

Economic reforms: These should be effected through the NTA and include debt relief and an internationally-sponsored economic recovery programme. The main elements of which will be: the establishment of a recovery and development fund designed to restore agricultural, industrial, infrastructural and energy development; help the country to recover — including repatriation of — resources plundered through corruption; and to assist through attractive loans and joint ventures with foreign companies and investors and those in the diaspora who wish to return home as investors and entrepreneurs in the various sectors of the economy.

Possible scenarios

Accordingly, the following appear to be the likely scenarios as the securocratic state becomes undone on the back of the current political and economic dynamics in Zimbabwe.

l The election route to 2018: Given current circumstances, this is the least likely scenario. Factionalism within Zanu PF party/state is fast approaching alarming proportions that it is difficult to imagine it (Zanu PF party/state) surviving into 2018, let alone win the poll in such a state. Worse still, if Mugabe were, for natural incapacity reasons, to depart from the scene.

l Departure of Mugabe from the political scene before 2018: Lawyer and researcher Derek Matsyzak has provided a rare, if not most comprehensive, insight into the (constitutional) process attendant in the event of the death, retirement or incapacity of the President, as presently governed by transitional provisions (effective until 2023) set out in Paragraph 14 of the Sixth Schedule of Zimbabwe’s constitution. These are to be read with Section 26(2) of the Zanu PF constitution:

Immediately upon the death, retirement or incapacity of the president, the person who was last nominated to act as president acts as president until a new president is appointed. The acting president may not, in this period, unilaterally exercise certain presidential powers such as the deployment of the army, entry into international treaties, make ministerial appointments or re-assign ministerial duties.

In terms of Section 26(2) of the Zanu PF constitution, at the instance of the party’s secretary for administration (currently Ignatius Chombo), an extra-ordinary congress must be convened to nominate a person to replace Mugabe.
The name of the person determined by the extra-ordinary congress must be submitted to the Speaker of Parliament (currently Jacob Mudenda) within 90 days of Mugabe’s death, retirement or incapacity.

The nominee must be sworn into office as president by the Chief Justice (currently Godfrey Chidyausiku) within 48 hours after the Speaker has been notified of the nominee.

The nominee assumes office and the person acting as president ceases to do so at the moment of the swearing in.
It is implicit that the new president only serves the remainder of Mugabe’s term of office, which expires with the formation of a new parliament, after the next general election, which unless, parliament is earlier dissolved, will be no later than July 2018.

Since incapacity is a basis upon which the above provisions may be implemented, it may be of interest to note how a declaration of incapacity may come about. “Incapacity” is one of several grounds upon which a president may be removed from office. The procedure is as follows:

  • The Senate and the National Assembly, sitting together, must resolve that the question of the President’s incapacity must be investigated.
  • A resolution to this effect must be passed by the affirmative vote of 50% of the total membership of both Houses, and not merely of those present.
  •  The Parliamentary Committee on Standing Rules and Orders must then appoint a joint committee to investigate the question of incapacity.
  • The joint committee comprises nine members drawn from both Houses and who reflect the political composition of parliament.
  • If the joint committee recommends that the president be removed on account of incapacity and two-thirds of the total membership (not those sitting and present) accept the recommendation, then the president ceases to hold office from that moment, and the procedures set out in Part A apply

So, if Mugabe were to die or retire due to incapacitation before 2018, but in the midst of the current internecine conflict and factionalism in the Zanu PF party/state, there are the possible sub-set scenarios:

  • The acting president ignores the constitutional provisions of both state and party, engage as much of the military-security complex around him, in pursuit of the interests of his faction and at the unimaginable expense of the other factions, including the First Family.

Given the current balance of forces, Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his “Team Lacoste” faction have an edge over the rest and is likely to have (actual or forced) precedence over Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko, particularly given his alliance with Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General Constantine Chiwenga, and some of (though not all, by any account) of the key elements in the military-security complex. But given his shallow political base in both Zanu PF party/state power matrix and the country at large, Mnangagwa will seek to avoid the possibility of a special congress (at which the party is to elect the person whose name goes to the Speaker, as the one to serve as president for the remaining period before the 2018 elections) or, at least, try to manipulate the attendance therein so as to maximise his prospects and emerge the president.

The feasibility and sustainability of such a sub-set scenario depends, of course, on Mnangagwa’s capacity to weather the storm of possible national and international outrage at the blatant breach of constitutional provisions that should guide the transition, quite apart from the reaction of the First Lady and her Generation (G40) group as outlined hereunder.

  • Factionalism flares up in opposition to the acting president: Initially, Grace and her G40 faction will try to manage the transition, including the possibility of ensuring that Mphoko is found being the last to have been acting president: then insist on a rigorous application of the state and party constitutions with respect to the transitional arrangements; ensure that herself, or a chosen one from the G40 is the one elected at the special congress and, therefore, emerge the president up to 2018; and then mobilise not only the party faithful, but also the rest of the country, including the emergent Zimbabwe People First, against Mnangagwa, Chiwenga, Christopher Mutsvangwa and his war veterans group; and then ensure, if that will not have already been done by the time Mugabe dies or forced to retire, that the military-security is sufficiently sanitised and a new leadership therein created.

Again, the feasibility or sustainability of such a sub-set scenario depends on the extent to which “Team Lacoste” is sufficiently neutralised and the political forces across the country mobilised in support of the First Lady and her groups and agenda. Given the current balance of forces in both the Zanu PF party/state and the country at large, the level of factionalism in the ruling party will escalate to frightening and possible internecine violence and bloodshed, while the opposition movements will capitalise on such an opportunity to mobilise and bring down the Zanu PF party/state.

  • Roll-out of the contingency plan: Factionalism alone that will accompany the transitional process following the President’s death or retirement could also be serious as to cause an indeterminate conclusion to the succession, as respective factions produce names of persons to be submitted to the Speaker within the 90 days specified in the national constitution. This will be enough to cause an unimaginable crisis, untold acrimony within the Zanu PF party/state itself, and between the latter and the various political parties and actors in Zimbabwe, and therefore, the potential for violence and bloodshed.

Yet this is also the kind of tension and anxiety already building up in the country as the factionalism and factiousness within and around the Zanu PF party/state impacts negatively on an economy already in distress and as the negotiations with the IMF and other multi-lateral and bilateral institutions grind to a halt under the weight of political uncertainty, lack of coherent leadership and virtual collapse of the economy.

As it is, the country is already in deep crisis and it would be ideal to begin rolling out the contingent plan, initially through the requisite consultations between a group of concerned but non-partisan persons and selected regional and global actors; and, subsequently, through a mechanism that includes provisions for Mugabe and his family’s safe passage and those of his associates, whose absence from the scene would facilitate the transition. As has already been explained, the NTA would be established and facilitated in its functions on the back of the implementation of the contingency plan.

From securocracy to democracy

Reference has already been made to the structure and functions of the NTA. Here is to highlight the main elements of the reform agenda with which it will necessarily have to be seized, in active consultation with all stakeholders in Zimbabwean society, including civic groups, political parties and representatives of people in the diaspora. These are the basic pre-requisites for the next elections and the reform agenda to which all Zimbabweans will have subscribed, to ensure both that political and economic pathologies of the Mugabe era are dead and buried and a new Zimbabwe is born and developed. Hence, the reform agenda should include the following:

  • Political reforms which include the full implementation of the (new) constitution and if possible the amendment of such provisions as were left either tentatively because of lack of consensus between the political parties to the constitution-making exercises or, as in the case of the vote for Zimbabweans in the diaspora, sacrificed on the altar of political expediency:

Reform of all national institutions to ensure the requisite separation of party and state (in addition to the necessity of separation of powers) so as render them truly non-partisan, in adherence with the constitution;
Reform of the electoral process, to include, inter alia, ensuring that the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission is completely independent of both political influence and the military-security complex; and
National consensus on critical national policies as broadly specified in the constitution in Chapter Two (National Objectives) and in Chapter Four (Declaration of Rights) and thereby ensuring that the broad policy framework represents the wishes and aspirations of the citizens of Zimbabwe.

  • Economic reforms which should be premised on the following macro-economic fundamentals and policy consistency:
    Debt clearance or, better still, debt relief as outlined under (i) a comprehensive land policy that restores the principle of property rights, while affording tenure to all land-holders, whether freehold, leasehold or communal; and (ii) revival of the productive sectors through appropriate policy interventions and incentives designed to ensure food security, create jobs, institute social policy/welfare programmes for the economically vulnerable, and attract investment — and joint ventures between Zimbabweans and foreign companies/investors — into agriculture, the manufacturing sectors and in scientific and technological development.

The hope here is that all this will create the conditions and environment through which to both restore progressive nationalism in Zimbabwe and thereby reconstruct the country beyond the current provincialisation system that coincides with ethnic or colonial nomenclature, as is the case in such neighbouring countries as Tanzania, Zambia, Botswana or even South Africa. Equally important, the new Zimbabwe must be an agency for generational change in politics, as the gateways through which the country and the nation can transit to the 21st Century.

Dr Mandaza is a Zimbabwean academic, author and publisher. He is currently the convener of the Sapes Trust’s Policy Dialogue Forum.