THE second session of the Ninth Parliament started yesterday, with the first session having produced barely anything in terms of delivering on the legislative agenda laid down by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in September 2018.
Mnangagwa, boisterous after walloping the MDC in the 2018 disputed general elections, was long on promises and short on delivery when it came to the democratisation and economic revival agenda that he sold to both locals and the international community, claiming he was a reformist.
The President initially came to power on the back of a coup that deposed the late former President Robert Mugabe in November 2017. The elections were a litmus test for Mnangagwa as a reformist. As if luck was on his side, Zanu PF won an uncontested two-thirds majority in Parliament, strengthening his hand to put sweeping reforms without hindrance.
Mnangagwa, in his maiden State of the Nation Address (Sona), delivered his first legislative agenda, filled with promises to democratise the country and make it attractive for foreign direct investment.
The legislative agenda had some 29 Bills, but by the end of the first session last week, the report card was very dismal by any standard because he had only delivered on nine, mostly that dealt with the appropriation Bills and other peripheral issues.
On the economic front, which Mnangawa ad nauseam pontificated to the media as his top priority, he suggested some sweeping legislative reforms that, among others, included the Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency Bill, the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill and the Tripartite Negotiating Forum Bill.
On the democratisation agenda, Mnangagwa tabled the Data Protection Bill, Broadcasting Services Act Amendment Bill, Maintenance of Order and Peace Bill, Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill, the Electoral Amendment Bill, the Provincial and Metropolitan Councils Bill and Freedom of Information Bill, which is set to replace the much-maligned and obnoxious Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
Mnangagwa was not done. He also promised the Child Justice Bill and Marriages Bill on the social front.
All the above Bills did not become law, despite Mnangagwa and his party Zanu PF having a two-thirds majority in Parliament. It is surprising how a man, who came with so much promise and goodwill, failed to harness this super-majority to fashion the country as he dreamt.
That Mnangagwa failed to utilise his honeymoon phase, squandering the goodwill that was bestowed on him, points to either an incompetent leader who got into office by accident without a plan or a man who, despite having a two-thirds majority, does not control his party. The latter may be true.
Soon after the general elections, Mnangagwa and his coterie started seeing shadows everywhere and went public that there was a sinister motive to dethrone him through impeachment.
The man has never been certain that he controls the Zanu PF parliamentary caucus, hence his reluctance to bring Bills that may be defeated despite having a super-majority.
Only yesterday, Mnangagwa came again before the nation to lay out another legislative agenda.
Curiously, the Bills tabled are no different from the past session. He promised to table the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, Freedom of Information Bill, Data Protection Bill and the Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill.
Mnangagwa further proposed an omnibus Constitutional Amendment Bill that would, among other things, entrench the women’s parliamentary quota system beyond 2023, scrap the running mate section for presidential elections and the setting up of an independent mechanism to handle complaints of misconduct by members of the security services, in line with section 210 of the Constitution.
Looking into the crystal ball, it is arguable that Mnangagwa would start with the omnibus Constitutional Amendment Bill for self-serving interests. The extension of the women’s quota in Parliament would endear him to female voters. However, the amendment to scrap the running mate clause before it even came into effect proves that Mnangagwa is preoccupied with settling internal Zanu PF battles.
Leaving the clause intact spells disaster for him as he can’t pick who his running mate would be, as this is controlled somewhere else, precisely the Zanu PF politburo and the military elements embedded in the party.
Like his predecessor Mugabe, Mnangagwa would rather keep the day of reckoning on who he trusts in the party and keep his followers guessing. However, this is dangerous for the party and State, just as November 2017 proved.
As the new parliamentary session begins, it is obvious that Mnangagwa would be further handicapped to deliver on his legislative agenda as his eye is always looking to the 2023 general elections. The President would also be encumbered by trying to keep under the lid the simmering factional sides in Zanu PF.
Mnangagwa is further unsettled by opposition protests and growing disgruntlement among the swelling ranks of the poor despite his rhetoric of building an upper-middle class economy by 2030.
The reality is only a tiny minority of the population would enjoy this cake. With this in mind, Mnangagwa is most likely to be more brutal against his enemies, close down the democratic space and probably become a benevolent dictator in the mould of Rwanda’s Paul Kagame.
However, this option is very slim as the economy has conspired against him and his government seems clueless on getting the country out of the rut.
It may well be for historians to find out how Mnangagwa squandered international goodwill, failed to harness a super majority in Parliament to structurally change Zimbabwe legislatively.
But for now, it is a damning indictment on Mnangagwa, how he has been politically impotent when enjoying a two-thirds majority in Parliament.
Paidamoyo Muzulu is a journalist and writes here in his personal capacity. He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org