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Mnangagwa’s Damascene moment

President Emmerson Mnangagwa

PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa on Thursday said he was in his last and final term and would go to rest when his tenure ends in 2028.

Speaking after commissioning the Mutare Teachers’ College fruit juice and water processing plant, Mnangagwa said: “I have had my first term and it ended. We went to congress and you retained me. So, I am in my last five-year term, which will end soon. I will be going to rest and we will go to congress to choose another leader who will follow in my footsteps. My resting days are near.”

What started as a joke in 2019 “2030 ndendichipo” had gained traction over the years.

Thursday’s announcement by Mnangagwa came as a band of cheerleaders, led by Midlands Provincial Affairs minister Owen Ncube, had upped the tempo declaring that Mnangagwa would be in office in 2030.

The band had roped in some Cabinet ministers and a section of the Zanu PF party’s youth league. Regalia emblazoned with ED 2030 slogan had been printed.

The cheerleaders appear to have been galvanised by Mnangagwa’s mixed signals.

After telling Brick by Brick magazine in April that he would not extend his term beyond the constitutionally mandated two, he appeared to be singing a different tune a month later.

Speaking at the 25th Episcopal (Silver Jubilee) ordination anniversary of Archbishop Robert Ndlovu of the Roman Catholic Church Harare in May this year, Mnangagwa, who had previously denied attempts to extend his presidency beyond the two-term limit, expressed desire to rule for eternity.

“Now me as President, anybody who preaches peace, love and harmony is my friend because then, the country will be peaceful, the country will be united and I can rule and rule and rule,” Mnangagwa said to applause from the audience.

That was the signal the hangers-on wanted. The 2030 band increased the volume and Mnangagwa at one time, hectored ministers to chant a 2030 slogan.

Any gathering by the ruling Zanu PF party was punctuated by the 2030 slogans.

This also extended to government programmes such as at the opening of schools in Chivhu or the relaunch of the National Youth Service.

Slogans such as “2030 VaMnangagwa Vanenge Vachipo” were coined, with party loyalists stampeding to outdo each other.

We saw the same hero-worshipping during the last days of the late former President Robert Mugabe’s era.

What could have led to this Damascene moment?

It is clear Mnangagwa did not get support from a key stakeholder that has a veto power.

What are lessons for those who went hoarse singing the 2030 slogan?

One lesson is to avoid blindly following a band of jesters so that one is not led down the garden path.

The coming weeks will show Mnangagwa’s sincerity.

One hopes the 2030 band will dissolve itself and those that continue cheering on Mnangagwa to extend his tenure must be censured.

This will send a clear message that he will abide by the Constitution.

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