By Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu
ATTEMPTS to discredit the Emmerson Mnangagwa-led national administration by the allegation that it removed former President Robert Mugabe from the presidential seat by a coup d’etat is not defensible because of two very important facts:
Mugabe’s topmost position in the ruling party, ZANU PF, had entitled him to stand for the national presidency in the last (2013) elections which he won.
When his party, ZANU PF, acted arbitrarily by suspending and expelling some of its most senior leaders, including the former Vice-President Mnangagwa, from its ranks in 2017, that resulted in fear, alarm and despondency throughout the nation, forcing the national security forces to intervene, and that enabled the ZANU PF top leadership to meet and take a decision to reinstate Mnangagwa into his former party position, and to expel Mugabe from his previous topmost ZANU PF post.
His loss of the ZANU PF’s topmost position, ipso facto, led to his loss of the position of national president.
His earlier resistance to resign from the national presidency led to the House of Assembly’s decision to pass a vote of no confidence in his presidency.
That resolution had the support of the opposition MDC- T MPs, and was in full accord with their (MDC-T) repeated call for him (Mugabe) to step down from national leadership.
He resigned instead of letting the National House of Assembly formally push him out by a vote of no-confidence.
Meanwhile, Mnangagwa, having been brought back as a ZANU PF VP, was entitled to step into Mugabe’s shoes as laid down in Zimbabwe’s national Constitution.
To describe what happened last November in Zimbabwe as a coup d’etat is to exaggerate the incident in that for a national political or administrative occurrence to be correctly called a coup d’etat, it must either be a violent or an illegal seizure of power.
The phrase coup d’etat is French and literally means ‘stroke of the state’.
For the preposition ‘for’, we can safely use ‘against’, so that we can also say coup d’etat implies a blow against the state.
We need not argue what happened to Mugabe last November was not in any way a ‘stroke against the state’, but undoubtedly an internal ZANU PF leadership change which inevitably negatively but constitutionally affected that party’s presidency, and in turn, adversely but lawfully removed the then incumbent from the national presidency.
We are all agreed as a matter of fact that there was very, very minimal violence, if there was any at all.
Concerning the law, at party level, ZANU PF appeared to have followed its constitution by convening a Central Committee meeting which decided to get rid of Mugabe and others as party leaders; and at national Government level, Parliament decided to follow a laid down constitutional procedure which, however, did not run its full course for reasons already stated.
If it had been a coup d’etat, the House of Assembly would have refused to pass a vote of no confidence in Mugabe, and he himself should have refused to resign.
However, he resigned because he knew that he could no longer remain as national president because the ZANU PF constitutional ground on which he became national president had completely refuted him as no longer suitable or desirable in that position.
The Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) role in the whole affair was that of a facilitator and maintainer of national peace and security.
If the ZDF had not done what they did, the country could have most probably been plunged into a civil war starting at ZANU PF party level and escalating to national dimensions.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe is getting closer to the projected national harmonised elections notwithstanding that the actual date or dates have yet to be officially announced.
Electoral administrative organisations have been spruced up in various ways, and but for legislative amendments that are demanded and are being discussed by the Government and some opposition parties.
President Mnangagwa has been repeatedly emphasising the importance of having free, fair and credible elections since he came into the country’s highest office last November.
There are some reservations in some circles of the domestic political environment about whether or not the President’s anti-violence pronouncements express his real intention.
The truthfulness of a leader’s intentions is reflected by the frequency of the statement he or she makes about them; the more repeatedly he or she states those intentions, the truer are those intentions.
No self-respecting national leader would repeatedly and publicly make an undertaking in bad faith as that could irreparably damage his or her credibility, and a leader’s credibility is vital for his or her political leadership’s support.
In a nation with a relatively high level of political consciousness and a capacity to analyse national leaders’ statements, it would lead to the doom of their political careers for leaders to say the opposite of their actual intentions and actions.
President Mnangagwa is obviously rebranding Zimbabwe’s image not only for internal purposes, one of which is the creation of national peace and stability, but also for international (external) purposes with the attraction of foreign investments and tourism as major objectives.
His emphatic call for free, fair and credible elections has been repeated by some of his party’s (ZANU PF) six publics comprising the women’s league, the youth, the war veterans, the security forces, the general membership, including the churches, and the party’s top leadership that includes the central committee and the politburo.
A segment of the national trade union movement can also be classified as another ZANU PF public, despite its numerical paucity because of the country’s deteriorating industrial and commercial condition.
By a public, we are referring to a group of people or to a community whose opinion about an idea, organisation or a personality can either help or harm that idea, organisation or personality if it (that opinion) is publicised.
It is clear that President Mnangagwa is presently supported by all his party’s publics, particularly all those that are vital to its very existence and electoral success.
Unlike the MDC-T, ZANU PF and its publics are currently harmoniously singing the same electoral chorus.
For its part, the MDC-T is internally riven and its differences include whether or not is should co-operate and co-ordinate its electoral activities and objectives with other opposition organisations and even by surrendering some of its Matabeleland constituencies to them.
It is also torn apart by whether the presidential chair should be occupied by the elected vice-president Dr Thokozani Khupe, or by the appointed Nelson Chamisa who has been confirmed by the party’s national council and has recently been upheld by a High Court decision in Bulawayo.
While ZANU PF is obviously enjoying a new lease of life created by the unceremonial departure of Mugabe from its presidency, the MDC-T has recently been experiencing violently disruptive pangs following the death of its celebrated founder Morgan Tsvangirai.
Mugabe’s departure from the ZANU PF presidency has had a positive effect on that party in that many people who abhorred his authoritarian leadership and would not be associated with his organisation, now say: “Give Mnangagwa a chance to revive the national economy.”
They are now for ZANU PF, a development that is assisted by the violent instability within the MDC-T.
That apart, Zimbabwe has some 108 political parties and all say they will field candidates in some of the constituencies.
In normal global circumstances, political organisations are formed to promote particular policies.
There are cases where political parties aim to introduce a particular kind of governance such as a unitary state governance, a federal or some other governance system.
Ethnicity or tribalism can also be a factor in the formation of political parties.
Some tribes may strongly wish to be politically led by one of their own, exactly the same way that they have traditional, tribal leaders such as chiefs.
Yet some political parties are formed for merely selfish ends, that is, to enable their leaders to earn a living.
In the 1950s, Isaac Samuriwo was known for that practice.
He was joined by John Mupunga Rice in the 1960s.
Samuriwo targeted the Federal Parliament to which he was occasionally returned by a negligibly few voters as the majority of the black people, whom he purported to represent, boycotted federal elections.
Rice targeted the Southern Rhodesia House of Assembly but always lost most dismally.
We may be having some Samuriwos and Mupungas heading some of those 108 parties.
The situation will become clear when the election occurs.
However, the current situation favours ZANU PF, especially in the rural areas of Mashonaland, Manicaland, Masvingo and the Midlands.
The overwhelming majority of the other parties has still to make their existence practically known nationally.
Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu is a retired, Bulawayo-based journalist. He can be contacted on cell 0734 328 136 or through email: firstname.lastname@example.org