What Could Be Missing From Mnangagwa’s ‘Third Term’ Bid?
7 March 2024
Spread the love

By Pride Mkono| Recent discussions in both mainstream media and social media have largely revolved around the possibility of President Emmerson Mnangagwa seeking a third term.

Much attention has been drawn to the newly introduced Zanu PF slogan ‘2030 vaMnangagwa vanenge vachipo’ (loosely translated as ‘2030 Mnangagwa will still be president’).

Video clips depicting Zanu PF youths and politburo members chanting this slogan at a youth day event in Masvingo quickly circulated online, evoking strong reactions from the public.

While immediate discussions gravitated towards constitutional interpretations and the potential for amendments to facilitate Mnangagwa’s third term, I will not delve into these aspects here, as my colleague Mlondolozi Ndlovu has already provided insightful commentary on the matter.

Instead, this analysis aims to uncover potential motives that may be overlooked in the ongoing discourse, specifically exploring the notion that President Mnangagwa could be employing a complex strategy of deception and diversion.

Power retention master play
Since assuming power following a coup in 2017, President Mnangagwa has adeptly navigated the complexities of maintaining his authority.

In the realm of politics, the acquisition and retention of power are paramount, and Mnangagwa has demonstrated a keen understanding of this reality.

Employing a combination of coercive measures and strategic political maneuvers, he has consolidated his influence within both Zanu PF and the State apparatus.

Meanwhile, the opposition has struggled with internal discord and strategic ineffectiveness, failing to pose a significant challenge to Mnangagwa’s leadership.

Through a series of purges and marginalization tactics, Mnangagwa has effectively neutralized internal dissent, solidifying his control over the ruling party.

This shrewd display of political acumen has emboldened Mnangagwa and his supporters as they advance towards the prospect of a third term in office.

Diversionary tactics
The conventional interpretation of recent events may overlook a more nuanced strategy employed by Mnangagwa-one that extends beyond mere discourse on a potential third term.

While the Constitution currently restricts Mnangagwa from pursuing a third consecutive term, his control over Zanu PF’s parliamentary majority could facilitate an attempt to amend these provisions, potentially leading to a referendum.

However, Section 328(7) of the Constitution poses a significant obstacle, as it prohibits former presidents and incumbents from benefiting from the removal of term limits.

US adds Zimbabwe First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa to its…

Mar 4, 2024 36,6029 Comments
Bomb scare halts flights at Victoria Falls Airport, diverts…

Mar 1, 2024 55,9457 Comments
Mnangagwa criticised for dishing out 100 Isuzu 4×4…

Feb 29, 2024 37,9606 Comments
Clive Malunga blasts Mnangagwa for corruption, abuses,…

Feb 29, 2024 67,50911 Comments
While some speculate that Mnangagwa may disregard these legal constraints, such a brazen approach could ultimately backfire and create more challenges than it solves.

Instead of focusing solely on the prospect of a third term, it’s plausible that Mnangagwa is leveraging this discourse to navigate the intricate dynamics of succession within Zanu PF.

Given the absence of term limits in the Zanu PF Constitution, Mnangagwa’s leadership tenure is contingent upon continuous endorsement by party structures.

With the next Zanu PF Congress scheduled for 2027 and considering the current narrative positioning him as the leader in 2030, Mnangagwa may be strategically positioning himself to emerge as the dominant figure in the party post-2027.

By doing so, he could effectively sideline internal rivals vying for succession, consolidating his power within Zanu PF and positioning himself as the key arbiter in determining the state presidency in 2028.

In this scenario, Mnangagwa would wield significant influence over the selection and promotion of the Zanu PF presidential candidate while maintaining control of the party apparatus.

Essentially, he could orchestrate the appointment of a successor who aligns with his agenda, effectively ruling by proxy through this handpicked successor.

This strategy draws parallels to authoritarian leaders elsewhere, such as Putin in Russia, who have skillfully maneuvered around term limit provisions to retain control of their countries even without holding formal positions.

Similarly, the case of DRC’s Kabila serves as a pertinent example, wherein the authoritarian leader stepped aside and installed Felix Tshisekedi-a perceived proxy-as president, while retaining significant power behind the scenes.

Outfoxing internal rivals
The potential ramifications of the aforementioned scenario, particularly concerning internal dynamics within the ruling party, have not been thoroughly examined.

Mnangagwa’s ascent to power was facilitated by a military coup orchestrated by the then Chief of the Army, General Chiwenga. Speculations within political circles suggested an informal agreement for Mnangagwa to serve a single term and then pass the baton to Chiwenga.

With Mnangagwa now nearing the end of his presumed final term, it would seem logical for Chiwenga to succeed him. However, the discussion surrounding a third term may serve to thwart Chiwenga’s ascension, ostensibly under the pretext of neutralizing opposition forces.

Consequently, Mnangagwa’s maneuvering sidelines deserving internal party elites who would otherwise be in line for succession within the ruling party and eventually within the state. This dynamic risks eroding elite cohesion and could potentially spark internal conflicts within the party.

In conclusion, the rhetoric surrounding a potential third term for President Mnangagwa appears to be a strategic diversion aimed at neutralizing internal contenders vying to succeed him legitimately upon the conclusion of his term.

It is conceivable that Mnangagwa harbors ambitions to retain control behind the scenes, wielding influence over both the ruling party and the government apparatus while installing a loyal surrogate as the public face of the administration.

Understanding this nuanced perspective is crucial, as it empowers public discourse with a comprehensive understanding of the political landscape.

Informed by such insights, stakeholders advocating for democracy can better navigate potential succession crises and capitalize on opportunities for positive transitions.

Thus, comprehensive awareness of all conceivable scenarios is imperative for fostering stability and advancing democratic principles.

Pride Mkono is a political analyst, social justice activist, and strategist. He writes here in his personal capacity and can be reached on: [email protected]