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Is Tsvangirai entitled to be in new govt?

The last few weeks have been very interesting in Zimbabwean politics. Interesting because so much has happened in the blink of an eye.

The last few weeks have been very interesting in Zimbabwean politics. Interesting because so much has happened in the blink of an eye.

By Immigration Maziwisa

For the first time in 37 years, Zimbabweans from all walks of life merged in a common cause to march, demonstrating against former President Robert Mugabe’s protracted reign. On November 18, 2017, thousands of Zimbabweans took to the streets to express their displeasure in the affairs of the country.

The unity exhibited by Zimbabweans on the day was last seen in April 1980 – if not better. In particular, their common source of fury emanated from the fact that Mugabe presided over one of the worst economies in modern history.

In essence, the common feeling was that he had arrogantly overturned the fortunes of a thriving nation into a desperate State.

As a result of Zimbabweans’ co-ordinated effort, Mugabe eventually succumbed to the pressure and resigned on November 21.

The Zimbabwe Defence Forces, (ZDF) acting in accordance with provisions of section 212 of the Constitution, moved in to protect its citizenry, secure the lives of future generations and to ensure the general security of the nation.

Needless to say, although the transitional effort was implemented by the ZDF, and well within the margins of section 212 of the Constitution as pronounced by High Court judge President George Chiweshe, the opposition insisted on some sort of transitional arrangement. Christopher Mutsvangwa, who is special adviser to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, announced that Morgan Tsvangirai had demanded to be appointed as Vice-President in the top hierarchy.

“President Mnangagwa wanted to pick some MDC-T members for ministerial posts, but held back after the party’s leader, Mr Morgan Tsvangirai threatened to expel from his party prospective appointees unless the opposition leader was himself given a post in the presidium,” Mutsvangwa was reported saying.

Mnangagwa’s offer to appoint some members of the MDC-T in his Cabinet was the best example of a responsible leadership. For some strange reason, the leader of the opposition threatened to fire the appointed members of his party, if he was not appointed in the presidium. Tsvangirai’s argument is probably based on the fact of their participation in the march on November 18. But to be fair to the opposition and its leadership, it is not unreasonable to suppose that their participation in the recent demonstrations deserved some sort of recognition considering their unwavering co-operation – but certainly not the kind of representation being sought by the opposition leader – Tsvangirai.

But let us consider one fundamental question of “entitlement”: Is Tsvangirai “entitled” to demand a place in the presidium?

Well, by virtue of any constitutional interpretation, neither the MDC-T nor Tsvangirai in his political capacity, has any legal entitlement to be in the new government, let alone its presidium.

In simple terms, one cannot demand what they are not constitutionally entitled to. Perhaps their only entitlement is to participate in the general elections scheduled to be held by August 21, 2018, when the national legislative assembly’s five-year term expires, according to section 158 of the Constitution.

In any case, the events leading to the swearing in of Mnangagwa were entirely constitutional. Section 101 of the Constitution stipulates that succession takes place in the event of death, resignation or incapacity of the President.

Although, according to the Zanu PF constitution, Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko was expected to assume office following the involuntary resignation of former Mugabe, the reality was that Mphoko’s political mischief had also become a national security threat – thus leading to his expulsion, permissible too.

Through the central committee, Zanu PF unanimously nominated Mnangagwa as its representative to take over from Zimbabwe’s only executive leader since independence in 1980.

Tsvangirai’s alleged demands can also be viewed in light of his absolute obsession for power.

There are some important considerations in that regard: firstly, that Tsvangirai has already been Prime Minister between 2009 and 2013 during the government of national unity arrangement – secondly that he is not feeling well to be seeking another term in office and thirdly that he has repeatedly amended MDC-T’s constitution in order to remain in power, thereby, compromising his supposed commitment to a true democracy.

In any case, it is a complex matter to ascertain the actual numbers of opposition members who participated in the march as being the majority – as widely claimed.

Even if that were the case, their solidarity in the march is not sufficient to warrant any constitutional involvement in the new Cabinet.

That Tsvangirai allegedly demanded to be Vice-President was the best exhibition of egocentric conduct.

Presented with an opportunity for some members of the MDC-T to serve their country probably for the last time, considering that the party’s prospects of winning the next elections will depend on Mnangagwa’s performance in the next few months, Tsvangirai permitted self-indulgence to creep in.

Alas, until the next elections, Cabinet appointments or dismissals are, exclusively, Mnangagwa’s prerogative.

*The article first appeared in Khuluma Africa publication.