CHIEF Justice Luke Malaba has finally settled the matter of former President Robert Mugabe’s departure by ruling in his chambers at the Constitutional Court that Mugabe resigned voluntarily last year.
By CONWAY TUTANI
The ruling was despite the likes of Jonathan Moyo and his coterie — who had seriously miscalculated by unwisely investing all their political stock in an ageing Mugabe, who was losing grasp and, thus, at his most vulnerable — saying otherwise, even going to the extent of appealing to the African Union and Sadc to reverse a fait accompli, like crying over spilt milk.
The court applicants wanted to reverse what was celebrated as good riddance on the streets by Zimbabweans from all walks of life, including whites who had, together with opposition supporters, been singled out for victimisation by Mugabe, who now wants to re-invent himself as the victimised when he trampled on anyone in his path until the pursuer became the pursued in November 2017.
The political backdrop to it is that things had come to a head last November. Things gathered momentum. It was building up to a perfect storm. The situation had reached a point of intensity at which strong action had to be taken — and it was taken.
One did not have to be an astute observer to see that Mugabe was now cutting a forlorn and diminished figure.
That Mugabe was now a henpecked husband, bullied, dominated, nagged, subjugated, intimidated, ground down by his own overbearing and over-ambitious wife Grace, who, according to reports, has been similarly trying to bulldoze her way into the State Vice-Presidency via the MDC Alliance in the event it wins the looming elections.
Indeed, Mugabe was now without a mind of one’s own, firmly tied to Grace’s apron strings. Who does not know that Grace, the power behind the throne, was pulling the strings over her uxorious husband, who she had wrapped around her little finger?
It was plain for all to see that Mugabe had become overly devoted and submissive to Grace as often happens when the wife is much younger and the much older husband feels insecure that he has to bend to her every wish in the hope of keeping her affections.
In the process, Mugabe sacrificed his party, Zanu PF, to the ambitions of his wife, resulting in the unintended consequence of uniting the nation against him. This included those in the opposition who had been waiting for years for that day to arrive when they would take it out on Mugabe, who had made them suffer for too long.
As they say, good things come in threes. So the threesome of the military, the people and Parliament combined for the final push in November last year, making Mugabe history.
Everything from that point felt like a fait accompli, like something that had been done and could not be changed.
The human drama and emotion was there. The spontaneity was there as people’s bottled-up anger and frustration finally burst out.
This was plain for all to see, but now some people are trying to dilute and dampen that because it sort of pulled the rug from under their feet.
But in a ruling announced this week, Chief Justice Malaba dismissed an application by two fringe political outfits seeking nullification of Emmerson Mnangagwa’s inauguration as President in November last year, saying Mugabe’s resignation was free and voluntary.
The plaintiffs had sought the green light to contest the legality of the Mnangagwa-led government.
They argued Mugabe tendered the resignation under duress and that the assumption of office by Mnangagwa was unconstitutional.
It was also argued in the court papers that the impeachment process that was instituted prior to the resignation of Mugabe was unlawful and that it served to coerce him to step down.
The language Chief Justice Malaba used had clarity, precision and unambiguity that even the layperson could get the gist of it.
Said the country’s top judge: “The former President’s written notice of resignation speaks for itself. It sets the context in which it was written. He (Mugabe) candidly reveals the fact that he had communicated with the Speaker of Parliament at 13:53 hours (on November 21, 2017). In the communication, the former President expressed to the Speaker his desire to resign from the office of President. The Speaker must have advised him that for the resignation to have the legal effect of bringing his presidency to an end, it had to be communicated to him by means of a written notice.
A written notice of resignation addressed to the Speaker and signed by the President, on the face of it, meets the first requirement of constitutional validity.”
The Chief Justice further established that the contents of the letter of resignation also confirmed that the author — Mugabe — freely appended his signature and acted in terms of the law.
“What the former President said in the written notice of resignation is the best evidence available of the state of his mind at the time. He said he was free to express his will to resign. Not only does the former President declare in the written notice that he made the decision voluntarily, he gives reasons for doing so in clear and unambiguous language. He said he was motivated by the desire to ‘ensure a smooth, peaceful and non-violent transfer of power that underpins national security, peace and sustainability’,” ruled the judge.
As one can see, Chief Justice Malaba did not get caught up in the politics of it, and avoided replacing facts with fiction. Mugabe opted for resignation instead of termination. He thought it better to quit before he was fired.
Even in the workplace, people are given a stark choice: Resign with your benefits or be fired losing your benefits. There is also a precedent in what Mugabe did: Richard Nixon voluntarily resigned as United States President in 1974 before he was impeached.
What happened, in effect, is that Mugabe had driven himself into a corner or dug himself into a hole. He put himself into a difficult and disadvantageous position of resigning in disgrace and embarrassment. The situation was now beyond his control. Events had overtaken him.
Even Ian Smith did not resign happily, but voluntarily because the situation had unravelled to the extent of making his stay in power untenable. Let’s not confuse between resigning happily and voluntarily.
The word “voluntary” does not give one absolute rights over one’s fate. Like my rights end where your rights begin. Otherwise if voluntary rights were limitless, no one would consent to leaving any post because that would be tantamount to firing yourself, which does not ordinarily happen.
All in all, your actions can result in you being deemed to have resigned. The main opposition MDC Alliance last week fired senior official James Maridadi because he did not take the option to resign from the party (if it is one at all) after registering to contest as an independent in the looming elections against the party’s directive after losing primary elections.
Mugabe came short of defying his party and resigned — voluntarily. As it stands, Mugabe is still a member of Zanu PF while Maridadi — who defied his party by not voluntarily withdrawing from the election — is no more a member of the MDC Alliance.
So, no more empty talk and crocodile tears that Mugabe did not resign voluntarily because in the circumstances, the resignation was as voluntary as it could be.
lConway Nkumbuzo Tutani is a Harare-based columnist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org