Analysts and legal experts have described the Zimbabwean cabinet’s decision to remove the constitutional clause that was going to allow contesting presidents to have vice presidential candidates as running mates beginning 2023 elections as an attempt to consolidate power for the ruling party.
The government resolved that Section 94, Subsection 2, which calls for the election of both the president and vice president be struck off from the supreme law and allow the head of state to name a vice president as soon as he is inaugurated.
Section 92 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe reads in part, “… Every candidate for election as president must nominate two persons to stand for election jointly with him or her as vice-presidents, and must designate one of those persons as his or her candidate for first vice-president and the other as his or her candidate for second vice-president.
“The president and the vice-presidents are directly elected jointly by registered voters throughout Zimbabwe, and the procedure for their election is as prescribed in the Electoral Law.”
This running mate clause was due to be effected in the upcoming 2023 election as a measure of ensuring certainty in cases of succession disputes and also ensuring that competent people are elected to the post of vice president, unlike the current situation in which vice presidents are handpicked.
Human rights lawyer, Kudzai Kadzere, described the move by the cabinet as an abuse of the two thirds majority held by the ruling ZANU PF party.
“ZANU PF is abusing the two thirds majority in its hands to pursue a narrow political agenda which has nothing to do with the national interest but to manage its own delicate internal political quagmire and succession agendas. The running mate clause was put in the constitution to create political certainty but as we all know ZANU PF thrives on political uncertainty and sublime mysticism in which the one centre of power is the executive president. Literally, this is a claw back on the gains of the 2013 constitution and shows how power is now being concentrated once again in a powerful executive president who can cherry pick his deputy,” said Kadzere.
Activist Pride Mkono described the move as a deliberate ploy by the ruling party to concentrate power on President Mnangagwa, comparing it with the dumping of the post of secretary general in the 1980s for Mugabe to amass more power.
“The Emmerson Mnangagwa regime wants to remove the running mate clause so that they concentrate power in a single person who is the president. Such maneuvers are part of the ZANU PF DNA. They removed the secretary general post in ZANU PF to consolidate power in the president. This is the same script and goes hand in glove with one party state agenda. As democrats we must resist this,” said Mkono.
Another lawyer Lloyd Kuveya, who has worked with the International Commission of Jurists, said by removing the running mate clause, Mnangagwa will have a “weak vice president” serving at the pleasure of the president and cannot question his authority.
“By removing the running mate clause the President, after the election, will then appoint his VPs who will feel indebted and beholden to the President for appointing them and the President can also fire them. If however, the running mate is elected together with the President on the same ticket the latter has less control over his VP,” said Kuveya.
However, Munashe Mtutsa, secretary for the Youth League in the ruling party’s Bulawayo District Coordinating Committee, said it is necessary for the clause to be removed since the main parties that negotiated the clause during the constitution had parked it for 10 years.
“Firstly we need to appreciate that the 2013 constitution was a compromise between what was referred to as the GNU (Government of National Unity) principals with most of its provisions being political. It was around the same clauses that some wanted to introduce the age of exit for the presidency. The same principals who agreed to have these ‘best international practices’ put in our constitution, never wanted the same to affect them, hence their parking the clause for 10 years. It’s important that the provisions in the national constitution that are not in line with aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe be removed,” he said.
Government critics believe that ZANU PF’s two thirds parliamentary majority is a threat to the country’s constitution as crucial clauses such as the presidential term limits risk being amended to suit the politics of the ruling elites.