Corruption Watch: Beware the Third Republic

We all now know that there is this loud talk about Mnangagwa wanting a third term.

This last week, police banned a meeting of the caretaker leadership of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association (ZNLWVA)—an affiliate of the ruling Zanu PF—planned for Bulawayo.

When the association applied for clearance of the meeting to discuss leadership issues ahead of new elections apparently set for Vitoria Falls, the police gave them the nod in the first instance.

That’s on record.

But, somehow, there were second thoughts and the clearance was reversed.

The war vets say the police said they had been bullied into cancelling the meeting, but didn’t say by who. There is no prize for guessing, though.

The angry war veterans then called an impromptu presser. At the media briefing, they strongly condemned President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s reported bid for a third term, usefully adding they didn’t go to war to see leaders dying in office.

In fact, they warned those Zanu PF elements that were pushing the third term agenda to stop it.

They were bitter that some powerful politicians were violating the constitution for personal gain and were particularly miffed by the issue that these politicians were abusing the judiciary to do judgments that militated against universal suffrage.

Put more directly, they were boiling at the fact that the judiciary had allowed Sengezo Tshabangu to show the electorate the middle finger by recalling elected opposition lawmakers and councillors after the 2023 general elections.

That rolls into a huge political statement, given what has happened in the past. War veterans have played an active role in Zanu PF and national politics for a long time.  They have played a more or less king-making role.

In Robert Mugabe’s twilight years, they were used to directly oppose the founding leader’s continued rule.

They did the megaphone politics by taking to the streets and protesting Mugabe’s attempt to die in office.

Quite symbolically, the Mugabe administration used national intelligence and the police to brutally quell the demonstrations and remonstrations by the vets.

They beat them up and used water cannons as well as tear smoke to suppress the protests.

That had a huge ramification because more anger against the Mugabe autocracy followed.

At the end of it all, Mugabe was deposed. He subsequently died a bitter man, seeing how his erstwhile comrades had pushed him out like that.

 The war vets, albeit that they tend to be used as political pawns, played an active role in Zanu PF succession politics then.

They directly contributed to the removal of Mugabe and the birth of the so-called Second Republic.

Developments of last week in Bulawayo may not attract excited attention at this stage. But then, that’s how things started in the case of Mugabe’s rule and its end.

The plot kept thickening. The most significant commonality is the issue of succession.

Then, the war vets opposed continued rule by Mugabe. Now, they are saying the same thing as regards Mnangagwa.

And they are tellingly using the parlance of yesteryear. They are, once again, ominously talking of criminals surrounding the president, just as was the case ahead of Mugabe’s removal.

These “criminals” are people who cling on the president’s coat tails and tell him to keep ruling because his continued rule gives them the chance to keep looting and munching.

Call them the armyworm of Zanu PF politics, just that they don’t come in as big numbers. 

We all now know that there is this loud talk about Mnangagwa wanting a third term.

His sympathisers in Masvingo have set the agenda by adopting a slogan that says he will be in power in 2030, two years after the expiry of his second and, according to the constitution, last term.

There is a war vets faction led by those that were at the forefront of opposing Mugabe, who are gunning to lead the association come elections.

This faction is part of the criminal gang that is pushing for Mnangagwa’s continued rule. Its scheme is to regain control of the vets’ movement and moblise for a third or even indefinite term for their godfather.

Now, Mnangagwa has not come clean on these shenanigans. If anything, he seems to be enjoying the sounds and optics and nudging his loyalists on, judging by media and other reports.

If his lack of direct condemnation of those calling for his stay beyond 2028 can be used as proof of support for the plot, then you may just as well conclude that Mnangagwa is endorsing the third term bid.

But that’s a very dangerous thing to do now. Before he can say “scarf”, there will be a Third Republic, seeing as it is that government eras in Zimbabwe are now being named in terms of merely the replacement of one set of leaders by another.

It would be too naïve to assume that there won’t be resistance to a Mnangagwa third term at the highest level in Zanu PF and government.

When the war vets starting talking and acting like they did in Bulawayo, you know there is some thick shadow on the horizon.

These guys are a mirror of the things happening in Zanu PF, always.

They are not as independent as they tend to claim or assume.

They reflect the thinking and aspirations of powerful people in the party. The war vets are a vestige of the waning liberation war military and, as the rule stands in the party, the politics leads the gun.

Therefore, when they start opposing a reported or actual third term, they are following some big politics.

This must be clear enough for Mnangagwa to see. He was there, at the forefront, when the war vets started to publicly talk Mugabe down for hanging onto power.

This is not to suggest that there will be a military coup, even though that possibility cannot be ruled out. This is just to say that a third term bid will be the sword that Mnangagwa will plunge onto because, by one coup or another, there are people who will come baying for his crown.

What will make it worse for him is that the masses, as in the case of Mugabe, will be too ready to be used as the popular swell of endorsement towards a third republic because, on a scale of one to 10, people just hate the idea of another term for Mnangagwa, especially given the fact that there is not much to show for his rule to date.

My biggest fear, though, is that the regime changing coup that will produce the third republic—whatever form it will take—will be seriously untidy.

And the third republic itself will bring anarchy that may take us half a century back.

  • Tawanda Majoni writes in his personal capacity and can be contacted on [email protected] 

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