President Robert Mugabe left for Luanda, Angola, on Tuesday, in a quandary as he was forced to appoint grieving Vice-President Joice Mujuru as Acting President.
She lost her husband, Retired General Solomon “Rex Nhongo” Mujuru, in a mysterious fire that gutted his farmhouse in Beatrice the same day.
His predicament arose from the fact that the other Vice-President, John Nkomo, was reportedly seriously ill and most probably out of the country receiving treatment.
According to the Constitution of Zimbabwe, President Mugabe has an option to appoint a senior minister as acting President during his absence.
Section 31 (1)(c ) says a minister may be appointed: “During the absence or incapacity of the vice-President or both Vice-Presidents, as the case may be, by such Minister as maybe designated for such an eventuality — (i) by the President or (ii) by the Cabinet, where no minister has been designated by the President in terms of sub-paragraph (i).”
However, experience has shown that President Mugabe doesn’t trust his ministers with bigger responsibilities than they already have.
A case in point is when he is out of the country, Cabinet does not sit to deliberate on pressing national, regional or international issues.
Sources say he fears if that happens, whoever would be acting President could convene Cabinet and make binding resolutions he may dislike.
At one time when he travelled abroad he left Joseph Msika, who was senior Local Government minister in the President’s Office between 1988 and 1995, as acting President, and he ordered the eviction of war veterans and Zanu PF supporters who had grabbed land around Harare and built houses.
At the time John Nkomo was Home Affairs minister in charge of the police.
The war veterans and Zanu PF supporters were ruthlessly evicted from the properties they had invaded and their structures were destroyed by the police. But President Mugabe was shocked upon return when he heard that his supporters were homeless and scattered all over Harare.
As soon as he touched down, he wasted no time to chide both Msika and Nkomo and ordered the return of his supporters to the land they had forcibly acquired.
Ever since, President Mugabe is wary of adding responsibilities of such magnitude to his ministers.