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Mnangagwa Tastes Presidential Power As Mugabe Vacations

Zimbabwean Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa. (Graphic by Ntungamili Nkomo)

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe started his annual retreat in the Far East on Sunday, leaving his ambitious co-deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa in charge.

Mr. Mnangagwa has long harbored presidential aspirations, and he moved a step closer to the presidency last week when Mr. Mugabe, who turns 91 in February, picked him as his right hand man.

Starting Monday through mid-January, Mnangagwa gets a first-hand taste of what may be his future job, barring any curveball upsets that are common in the ruling Zanu PF’s politics, analysts say.

But analysts say while Mnangagwa may feel good, there is little to celebrate as he cannot exercise any presidential powers, including elementary roles such as calling cabinet meetings.

Only Mr. Mugabe can do that.

“It is clearly a good Christmas present for Mnangagwa; it will give him and his family a good feeling,” said legal analyst Dewa Mavhinga.

“But the reality will soon dawn on him that in fact this post of acting is very ceremonial, it has no real substantive power.

“The Constitution does not allow an acting president to do a number of things, for example to enter into any agreement international treaty or convention… he cannot deploy the defense forces. So Mr. Mugabe has carried with him the real power while he is on holiday,” Mavhinga added.

But political analyst Brilliant Mhlanga differed.

“There is a lot that Mr. Mnangagwa will learn about the functions of the presidency while acting. He will get to know the roles of the president and the challenges that he face.”