Respected constitutional law expert and University of Zimbabwe lecturer Lovemore Madhuku has said the intervention by the army which culminated in former president Robert Mugabe’s resignation last November was illegal in terms of the country’s Constitution.
Mugabe resigned in November following an army intervention, which saw the rise of Emmerson Mnangagwa to the position of President.
Following his resignation, debate has been raging on, on whether there was a coup or not, even though regional and international bodies have since welcomed Mnangagwa’s ascendancy.
Judge president George Chiweshe has since ruled that the takeover of government by the army, which culminated in Mugabe’s resignation was lawful following an application filed last November by two Zimbabweans who sought an order illegitimising the army’s intervention.
Chiweshe said the intervention by the army was justified considering that Mugabe was no longer able to execute his duties independently.
However, speaking on Wednesday at a discussion held at the Southern African Political and Economic Series (Sapes) Trust dubbed, Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Coup Crisis: The Way Forward, Madhuku said all the events that took place leading to Mugabe’s resignation pointed to a coup.
“I think the debate about a coup or no coup is mixing issues, it’s, do you like the coup or you do not like the coup.
“I mean this nonsensical debate whether there was a coup or no coup, I think it’s a completely, I would use the word nonsensical, in the sense that there was a coup from a legal perspective, whatever the meaning there was,” Madhuku said.
He said even though the word coup does not exist in the Constitution, words like unlawful or unconstitutional or contrary to the Constitution are used instead.
He said the aspect of putting pressure on a sitting president, with a view of pushing him out is described as a coup.
He said even if 100 million people say an elected president must go, if that pressure is put and the president feels threatened, that would amount to a coup as the only lawful process to remove a president is through an election.
“The moment that he claims that his resignation was not voluntary, if he says that, then you investigate if it was voluntary or not and if you find that it was not voluntary, then clearly it will be difficult to sustain a situation where you say it was in accordance with the Constitution.”
He further said in terms of the Constitution, the president alone is the one equipped with the power to deploy the army into the streets, which was not the case during last year’s army intervention.
Madhuku further said the events of November 15, 2018, can be defended politically but not legally.
“In the legal environment, with the precedent that has been set, the army will do it at any other time and that they will not be targeting Mugabe’s party now, I think they will be targeting another person or another leader.
“We have had countries that have gone through this, until one country that used to say a coup happens, as long as it succeeds its fine, then they found there were more and more coups and decided for a coup to be valid, it must be approved by the courts.
Madhuku’s other panelists, National Patriotic Front spokesperson Jealousy Mawarire and pro-democracy activist Linda Masarira, also said last year’s events were illegal.
Mawarire said Mugabe had been told by negotiators during last year’s army intervention that if he refused to leave, the soldiers were going to open the gates for members of the public and that he was going to go down the former Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi way.
He also said the army has effectively taken control of all institutions, including the police.
He further said they will soon be going to court and mobilising protests to test the Mnangagwa-led government’s sincerity.