President Robert Mugabe has reportedly resolved to appoint Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa as Acting President each time he goes out of the country so that the Justice minister quickly learns the ropes and prepare for a possible takeover in the event the veteran politician becomes incapacitated, NewsDay has learnt.
EVERSON MUSHAVA/BLESSED MHLANGA
Well-placed government sources said Mugabe now felt more secure with Mnangagwa as Acting President hence his decision to go on leave shortly after appointing him last December.
The sources said the other VP, Phelekezela Mphoko, would continue to play second fiddle as Mugabe was still assessing him.
Mnangagwa is regarded as Mugabe’s long-time ally, who took over from Joice Mujuru in December after she was relieved of her government and party posts over allegations of plotting the 90-year-old leader’s downfall.
According to Section 100 of the Constitution, the last person to act as President will automatically take over in the event that the President is incapacitated.
Mnangagwa was first appointed Acting President just before Mugabe left for a five-week-long holiday in the Far East in December last year.
Mnangagwa was again appointed Acting President when Mugabe left for the inauguration of Zambian leader Edgar Lungu recently and has continued in the same capacity as Mugabe attended an African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
In the past, Mugabe used to alternately appoint VPs to act on his behalf.
Although Presidential spokesperson George Charamba could not be reached for comment on why Mugabe seemed to prefer Mnangagwa ahead of Mphoko, legal experts said Mugabe was playing his cards carefully to ensure smooth transfer of power.
Constitutional law expert Alex Magaisa said the pattern of appointing Acting Presidents should not be taken lightly.
“It might seem irrelevant to talk about the Acting Presidency, but actually it is critical in the context of our politics and the age and heath circumstances of the President. It is vitally important in regard to succession politics,” Magaisa said.
He said Section 14(4)(a) of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, which governs what happens at succession when the President dies, resigns or is removed from office, provides that should any of this happen, it is the VP who was last nominated as Acting President who assumes the Presidency for a temporary period of up to three months while the ruling party is selecting a permanent replacement.
“All this means that whenever a VP is appointed Acting President, that temporary position carries far more weight and meaning for the future of the country, than in ordinary circumstances,” Magaisa said.
“And so far, it seems the man trusted to hold that role is VP Mnangagwa. Perhaps, the thought is that VP Mphoko is still green in matters of statecraft and is being given time to learn the ropes. Or perhaps, he is just fulfilling the role of page boy at the wedding of a favoured senior cousin.”
Political analyst Takura Zhangazha said it was the prerogative of Mugabe to choose who he wanted.
“This also means these are uncertain times in Zanu PF in terms of factionalism and succession. The decision to keep Mnangagwa continuously acting maybe to make sure that he stamps his authority until he eventually takes very from Mugabe,” he said.