EXACTLY a year ago today, then President Robert Mugabe who had been in power for 38 years announced his resignation triggering an explosion of celebrations across the country.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Some 12 months later the euphoria of Mugabe’s departure has died down, Zimbabwe has gone to the polls, Mugabe’s replacement President Emmerson Mnangagwa has controversially won his first term, but the economy remains stuck in the mire.
However, it is Mugabe’s shadow that, like a flea, continues to dog not only the country, but Zanu PF in particular.
Questions remain on the legality of the process followed to force Mugabe into resignation a week after the army had stormed key State institutions and placed the former guerrilla leader under house arrest while scattering his most ardent henchmen.
Former Zanu PF, Masvingo Urban lawmaker Daniel Shumba said he had not participated in Mugabe’s impeachment because it had been “unconstitutional”.
“I did not take part in the impeachment because it was an unconstitutional process and not because I wanted him to stay on. Even the internal processes in Zanu PF that claimed to have recalled Mugabe were flawed. For starters Mugabe was under house arrest, (then Vice-President Phelekezela) Mphoko was outside the country, Mnangagwa had been fired while the party did not have a national chairperson,” argued Shumba yesterday.
The Zanu PF central committee and politburo met chaired by then secretary for finance Obert Mpofu who yesterday refused to comment on the matter.
“I am not in the country. Please talk to spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo,” said Mpofu.
Khaya Moyo said Mpofu’s role was perfectly normal and consistent with Zanu PF’s constitution.
“He (Mpofu) was asked by party members in the absence of the President (Mugabe) the two VPs (Mnangagwa and Mphoko) as well as the then secretary for administration (Ignatius) Chombo who had also been sucked into the situation. It was perfectly above board because the party constitution allows for that and he was the most senior party member available,” Khaya Moyo said.
Opposition MDC secretary general Douglas Mwonzora said his party does not regret joining Zanu PF in Mugabe’s impeachment.
“The MDC does not regret Mugabe’s removal. It represents the removal of a dictatorship that was morphing into a dynasty. The fact that those who replaced Mugabe are not effective develop-mentalists is not a fault of the MDC.
“We are working to remove the last vestiges of Mugabe’s dictatorship through democratic means,” Mwonzora said.
Chombo, who at the time was Finance minister, had been arrested by the military as party of a round-up of Mugabe’s hangers own characterised as “criminals surrounding the President”.
After dramatic events that began with Mnangagwa’s sacking as Vice-President on November 6 last year, the military moved in and announced Mugabe had been placed under house arrest. The ruling party’s central committee met on November 18 and resolved to “recall” Mugabe.
Meanwhile, delicate negotiations between Mugabe and securocrats lead by then Commander Defence Forces Constantino Chiwenga went on. Mnangagwa was at the time holed up in South Africa having claimed his life was in danger from Mugabe’s goons. Zanu PF also resolved to move a motion of impeachment against Mugabe as the former guerrilla leader hung onto his job by his fingernails.
On November 20, Mugabe convened a Cabinet meeting that was reportedly attended by only two ministers only among them then Justice minister Happyton Bonyongwe. This effectively signalled the collapse of Mugabe’s government and 24 hours later as Zanu PF lawmaker Monica Mutsvangwa moved a motion for Mugabe’s impeachment seconded by the opposition’s James Maridadi, the then President threw in the towel in a letter to the Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Mudenda.
Khaya Moyo said all was above board and challenged those questioning the process to approach the courts.
“The parties in Parliament could not illegally cause a joint sitting of the National Assembly and Senate to debate something illegal. Those that think they have facts can approach the courts and challenge the process,” Khaya Moyo said.
However, Shumba further questioned Mnangagwa’s return and election to replace Mugabe.
“Mnangagwa had been fired. The question is when did a Zanu PF disciplinary committee sit and overturned the decision to expel him from the party. It raises questions around Chief Justice Luke Malaba’s decision to swear in someone who was not even a member of Zanu PF.
“There was no properly chosen name before Mudenda meant to replace Mugabe as President,” Shumba argued.
Mugabe for his part immediately made a volte-face claiming he had been forced into resignation by the army in a complaint to African Union Commission chief Moussa Faki.
On the eve of general elections in July Mugabe called for a Press briefing and announced he was backing opposition presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa declaring “I will not vote for those responsible for my situation”.
But after Mnangagwa was declared winner and the Constitutional Court had confirmed the poll result as legitimate, Mugabe like the political grandmaster he is, changed tact and announced he was happy the new leadership had come out of a democratic electoral process despite howls of disapproval from Chamisa.
Exactly a year after his removal Mugabe continues to divide opinion across the country’s political divide with Mnangagwa’s administration basically being judged against his predecessor’s record.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) said there has been an improvement as regards political freedoms, but socio-economic rights remain a big issues yearning for attention.
“As far as the political terrain is concerned, we believe there has been a marked improvement if the environment that characterised the July election is anything to go by. You will remember that under the old administration there was a time when everyone almost lost their rights, including the right to freedom of speech.
“The new administration has generally allowed citizens to go about their business except for the August 1 incident in which six people lost their lives, Zimbabwe has seen an improvement,” chairperson Elasto Mugwadi said.
Mugwadi, however, said citizens have been groaning under the weight of deteriorating socio-economic environment.
“We cannot say there has been a regression, but the situation needs attention. The outbreak of cholera in the middle of the dry season is unheard of and our local authorities have failed, so there is need for attention to make sure citizens enjoy their rights in this regard,” the ZHRC boss said.
But Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) director Okay Machisa said the situation has deteriorated.
“I don’t think there has been any improvement. There has been a number of abuses we did not expect from the new administration epitomised by the August 1 shootings of ordinary citizens. There is nothing to celebrate.
“Zimbabweans have not enjoyed the socio-economic and political rights we are guaranteed by the Constitution. We still see partisan distribution of food. There seem to be much talk and little action around the economy but nothing tangible for Zimbabweans to enjoy,” Machisa said.