VICE-PRESIDENT Constantino Chiwenga has unwittingly exposed the ruling Zanu PF party’s plans to use its parliamentary majority to railroad constitutional amendments and declare its leader Emmerson Mnangagwa President-for-life.
Addressing party supporters after Mnangagwa launched a civil servants’ housing scheme in Beitbridge on Wednesday, Chiwenga, who has been widely viewed as harbouring ambitions to succeed his boss, warned that if civic groups, opposition parties and their foreign handlers continue making unnecessary demands, Zanu PF would go for the jugular and declare Mnangagwa President-for-life.
“You have heard the chairperson (Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri) saying that last month in October we held the national people’s conference that was chaired by the chairperson and all provinces including yours endorsed him,” Chiwenga said.
“You said you wanted Shumba, Murambwi, President Mnangagwa, a competent leader, a leader who will be our candidate in the 2023 elections, so that he can achieve his vision 2030. His detractors have been defeated and are now saying this and that. Zanu PF will rule forever and if they dare (the naysayers), we will amend the law that we want (President Emerson Mnangagwa) forever.”
Zanu PF is known for pushing its parliamentary majority to enact unpopular pieces of legislation.
In May, the Zimbabwe Constitutional Amendment Bill (Number 2), which scraps the running mate clause in the supreme law and gives the President power to appoint judges, sailed through with little resistance in both Houses.
Chiwenga’s declaration was, however, also interpreted as an attempt to exonerate himself from accusations that he is trying to topple the Zanu PF leader.
Chiwenga is alleged to be behind a Zanu PF faction that has reportedly made several manoeuvres aimed at toppling Mnangagwa which include inciting war veterans to protest recently against government.
Last month, a Zanu PF activist, Sybeth Musengezi filed an application at the High Court seeking nullification of the November 19, 2017 central committee meeting that appointed Mnangagwa as party leader.
Insiders claim that the Zanu PF faction aligned to Chiwenga orchestrated the lawsuit in an attempt to oust Mnangagwa.
Political analysts yesterday described Chiwenga’s threats to elevate Mnangagwa to Life President as regrettable, as it came a few days after the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition warned that the country was fast sliding into a full-fledged dictatorship.
There are concerns that Mnangagwa has been shutting down the democratic space to entrench his hold on power. Already, unpopular legislation like the Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill targeting non-governmental organisations that are viewed by Zanu PF as pro-opposition has been proposed.
Analyst Eldred Masunungure described Chiwenga’s utterances as a “smart political scheme” to ease tensions and manage the onslaught he was reportedly subjected to on accusations of trying to dislodge Mnangagwa.
“Chiwenga’s utterances are not new in Zanu PF. In the past, we have heard very senior party members making the same declarations that the now late former President Robert Mugabe would rule forever,” Masunungure said.
“But the very same ‘loyal’ members were celebrating his downfall. By declaring Mnangagwa a lifetime president, Chiwenga was trying to demonstrate internal loyalty and allay the speculation and suspicion that he wants Mnangagwa out. By declaring Mnangagwa a life president, Chiwenga is saying, ‘I don’t want to be a leader.’ Is that sincere?”
Another political analyst Alexander Rusero said: “It becomes very disturbing when realising that Chiwenga is more than a Vice-President, but is a former military man and strategically positioned to take over.
“It is very worrying that in the army they are used to the life of instructions and orders as opposed to democracy, where people have a right to choose. It is a troubling statement considering that it comes from the apex.”
Last month, the Zanu PF national youth executive said the party could make constitutional amendments that would allow Mnangagwa to serve for more terms after the 2023 elections.