ZIMBABWE has been going through a lot in the past week, trying to navigate through a constitutional crisis but one thing has stood out about the administration. It is autocratic both at home and abroad.
BY Paidamoyo Muzulu
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has from the day he assumed power through a military coup in November 2017, claimed that his administration was a new dispensation — a new way of doing things and servant leadership. An administration that will seek to re-engage with the international community and end the country’s splendid isolation that the late former President Robert Mugabe had pursued in his last two decades in power.
However, besides tokenism change in opening the airwaves and political public spaces, the administration has been silently executing a coup against the Constitution. This is beside the point that the constitution turns eight years tomorrow since its promulgation.
The administration has so far controversially steered two constitutional amendments that are being challenged in the courts. The first amendment gave the President power to unilaterally appoint the Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice, Judge President and Prosecutor-General.
Mnangagwa thinks that the public interview process envisaged in the 2013 Constitution is bad, it brings ridicule upon the holders of such high offices. However, the reality was he is less concerned about meritocracy than personal and clan relationships.
Unsatisfied by the immense power that he had gained through Constitutional Amendment No 1, Mnangagwa proposed and railroaded Constitutional Amendment No 2 through Parliament, changing 28 pieces of legislation.
While some of the changes are mere changes to titles and aligning the offices of functions of certain public offices to the new constitution, there were three outstanding changes. These were the appointment of judges of the Supreme and Constitutional courts, the terms of office of the judges and the make-up of provincial and metropolitan councils.
The Mnangagwa administration argues that judges of the superior courts should not be subjected to public interviews and the President should have a freehand to promote justices from the High Court bench to the superior courts after consultation with the Judicial Service Commission. The regime further wants the superior judges to serve beyond the original 70-year limit.
The administration further changed the composition and election of provincial and metropolitan councils’ chairpersons. In the original Constitution, mayors of Harare and Bulawayo were supposed to chair the two metropolitan provincial councils. It goes without saying that the change was targeted at the opposition which has controlled the two metropolis since 2000.
Zanu PF was not ready to concede to the opposition on any of the amendments it proposed. Whenever a deadlock occurred, it did not hesitate to divide the House because it had the numerical superiority in both Houses. Please note, it was not the weight of its arguments but simply that it had the votes.
The extension of the tenure of superior court judges is now being litigated in the courts. Zimbabwe has no substantive Chief Justice and the Deputy Chief Justice’s tenure is not secure because Amendment No 1 is being challenged at the courts.
While this was happening at home, at the United Nations Zimbabwe was brewing another shocker. It joined a club of 15 to object to a resolution on the responsibility to protect and prevent genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
The United Nations Watch tweeted the results of the vote on Tuesday morning. @UNWatch tweeted: “List of shame: Countries who just voted no to UN General Assembly resolution on the responsibility to protect. North Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Nicaragua, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Indonesia, Burundi, Belarus, Eritrea, Bolivia, Russia, China, Egypt, Cuba, Syria.”
The above countries have one form of crisis or another. They are at war with sections of their populations. They have oppressed and suppressed dissent by opposition political activists. They are, to some extent, military regimes.
Mnangagwa’s administration has deployed the military twice post-November 2017 to quell protests. On both occasions, more than 20 unarmed civilians were shot in cold blood by the military. The August 1, 2018 shooting in Harare central business district shocked the world.
Mnangagwa set up an international commission chaired by former South African leader Kgalema Motlanthe. The commission produced a damning report on the security services. It recommended that thorough investigation should be done on the deployment and use of force by the military, that those implicated should be prosecuted and victims compensated. To date, nothing of the sort has happened.
Zimbabwe has had bad episodes starting right after independence, the Gukurahundi in Midlands and Matabeleland provinces, the 2000 farm invasions, 2005 Operation Murambatsvina and 2008 presidential election violence.
All the above-mentioned cases fit snugly into the UN resolution on the responsibility to protect and prevent genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
Presidential spokesperson George Charamba confirmed the same on his Twitter handle @Jamwanda2.
“Zimbabwe voted yet against this omnibus General Assembly resolution especially because of the part of it to do with the responsibility to protect, R2P. Those with no sense of recent history or who mistakenly think western global imperial power is benign and benevolent, forget … it was precisely this same clause — responsibility to protect — which was used to attack Gaddafi’s Libya, and which almost got invoked for use against Zimbabwe had it not been for the double veto by Russia and China,” he tweeted.
This is the spot Zimbabwe finds herself in. Any resolutions that try to bring transparency and accountability but threatens the administration’s hold on power will not be accepted. Yes, it is true the West has double standards and probably we should just accept and live by the standards we set for ourselves in the 2013 Constitution.
This is a tough call when the hounds are smelling blood. There is no more pretence, the mask has fallen off.