A High Court judgement that seems to exonerate President Emmerson Mnangagwa of any wrongdoing in the army killings of protesters in Harare on August 1 has rekindled talk of a rift between the Zanu PF leader and Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga.
The judgement sparked speculation that Chiwenga was the target of an investigation led by former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe.
However, University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure (EVM) told our chief reporter Everson Mushava (EM) in an interview that although the judgement could widen the rift between Mnangagwa and Chiwenga, it was professionally prepared.
He said the ruling provided a key test for Mnangagwa and Chiwenga in their relationship. Below are excerpts from the interview.
EM: On Friday, High Court judge Justice David Mangota delivered his judgement on the case where President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s appointment of the Motlanthe Commission to investigate the August 1 army killings is being challenged. What is your assessment of the judge’s ruling?
EVM: It was a well-prepared judgement with comprehensive background. The language was carefully thought out.
EM: Does it not pre-empt the commission’s work?
EVM: The judge did not go out of the boundaries of the case. The people who brought the case had specific issues that they wanted addressed and the judge had to apply himself on those issues.
Of course, given the nature of the case and that the commission is still ongoing and a judgement is being made in mid-stream, it will obviously have implications on the findings.
As it is, the commission has been cleared, that it is well constituted and that all the members are properly appointed.
It sounds like a pre-emption of some sort particularly on who did what and who knew, and that is spelt out clearly.
EM: What is your assessment of the judgement on the constitutionality of the Motlante Commission?
EVM: The judge in a way is saying the whole process of the appointment of the commission members is constitutional.
The constitution was properly followed and, therefore, the report is a professional outcome of a credible process.
The judge did not allow himself to make a judgement as to whether the minister of Defence followed the last step, seeking the approval from the president, or recommended to the president to do X and Y, to deploy the security forces in light of the gravity of the situation considering that the police was understaffed.
He should have made a recommendation because the minister of Defence does not have the constitutional powers to deploy; he has run short of saying that.
Reading between the lines, because the judge is clear that the order came from the Defence minister, and when you read that, you ask: what does the constitution stipulate?
Then it is clear that the minister has no constitutional powers to deploy and that there was no attempt, at least according to the records available to the judge, to seek the approval of the one who has the constitutional authority regarding the deployment of the armed forces.
I presume, if the president is away, the acting president could have that power, but we are aware that according to the constitution, an acting president cannot declare war or peace.
EM: In your view, do you think the ruling has any bearing on the relationship between Mnangagwa and Chiwenga?
EVM: Undoubtedly. The key issue is how the two will absorb the judgement, which we already know.
Are they taking it as a professional judgement or politically motivated one?
To me reading, this is a professionally made judgement, I don’t think it is motivated by factionalism in the party.
Certainly, however, it will cause some ructions in the regime. if there is already some factionalism, it will deepen; and if it is true that the two factions are led one by ED and the other one by Chiwenga, then the judgement will widen the factionalism between the two and their respective camps.
I have no doubt that it will have implications in terms of the incipience of the factionalism; factionalism will rear its ugly head.
EM: What are Chiwenga’s options given the Justice Mangota judgement and the growing signs that he is being targeted by Mnangagwa’s backers?
EVM: I don’t anticipate any move in the direction of resignation. I don’t see that coming. That option is out.
He would rather fight from within. In any case, he regards himself as someone who instigated the whole process that led to Mnangagwa to take over.
Chiwenga sees himself as the father of the second republic. He cannot withdraw at this stage.
He will fight from within. Assuming that there are serious ructions in the regime, and it appears there are, the alternative of retiring is not clearly an option for Chiwenga. That route is closed.
EM: There is a school of thought that says Mnangagwa is consolidating power by stripping Chiwenga of certain powers. Do you think Chiwenga has the capacity to fight back?
EVM: He should not do a Mugabe on Chiwenga, He should not do what Mugabe tried to do on him.
It is highly risky business. He should, rather, seek to contain rather than fire. firing will result in uncontrollable consequences, which may plunge the country into an abyss.
It will be a high risk operation, which ED should never venture to do. He will seek measures to contain him rather than remove Chiwenga.
He will use containment and exposing that I am clean, the dirty one is that one.
He might rather fight to expose Chiwenga rather than fire him. Firing him won’t be a politically wise move.
The firing may result in perverse effects like what we had last year when Mugabe fired ED and within hours it was him who was in the cold.
We know history repeats itself, but I am sure ED learnt that lesson and will try not to be a victim for the same lesson.
— The Standard