BY EVERSON MUSHAVA
THE constitutional amendments approved by Cabinet that will see the President appointing and firing his vice-presidents is proof that Zimbabwe is morphing into a new autocracy under President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a political scientist has said.
The cabinet on Tuesday approved Constitutional Amendment Bill 2019, which repeals section 92 of the Constitution dealing with running mates, giving the President power to hire and fire his deputies as well as appoint and promote judges.
But political analyst Eldred Masunungure said the approved changes were taking the country towards a “tenacious” autocracy and show that Mnangagwa was not only power-hungry but hopes to die in office.
“Amending those sections of the Constitution is an extremely tenacious move,” he said.
“The constitutional amendments touch at the heart of the Constitution. These are dangerous developments towards the progression of democracy.
“We are moving towards a tenacious autocracy, a chilling future. We should look at those changes with trepidation. I don’t see any constitutional way to stop the amendments because Zanu PF has the majority in Parliament unless sanity prevails in some MPs and they block it.”
Section 92 of the Constitution stipulates that the presidential candidate must nominate two persons who will have to be directly and jointly elected by registered voters.
The two nominees automatically become his deputies, with one of them nominated to be the first vice-president.
The running mate clause was supposed to take effect in 2023, but with the proposed amendments, the President will have the latitude to appoint and fire his two deputies.
The Constitution does not give the President the powers to fire the Vice-Presidents, according to Section 95.
Section 97 says a President or Vice-President can only be removed by Parliament, a joint resolution by both houses, the Senate and the National Assembly.
“The idea of running mates was made to insulate the Vice-President from a predatory President. Now, according to the new changes, the President can now hire and fire the Vice-President, the same manner Mnangagwa was treated by Mugabe in 2017,” Masunungure said.
Mnangagwa was fired by Mugabe in 2017 before the army staged a coup that ousted his former boss. The court later ruled that Mugabe had no powers to fire his deputy.
“If Mnangagwa made the amendments due to fear of being removed by his deputies or if this was a coup-proofing move, it only improves the chances of him being removed through a coup,” Masunungure said.
“It shows that Mnangagwa is very power-hungry. The constitutional changes speak for themselves. He is moving towards being an autocrat more than his predecessor. Ten constitutional amendments in one Bill, and the Constitution is already obliterated.
“It is no longer the Constitution that we voted for. This is a betrayal of the people and, in fact, God because he says the voice of the people is the voice of God. I don’t know what type of wind is blowing at Zanu PF headquarters, but truly it is a bad wind.”
The Constitution requires judges to be subjected to public interviews, and not outrightly appointed by the President.