HARARE – Emmerson Mnangagwa is due to be sworn-in this week as President of the Republic of Zimbabwe.
The 75-year-old takes over from Robert Mugabe, becoming the second president of independent Zimbabwe since the fall of colonial rule from Britain in 1980.
Mugabe’s surprise decision to tender his resignation letter to Parliament yesterday, cleared the way for Mnangagwa to succeed him as State and party president.
Although Phelekezela Mphoko, the sole vice president in the interregnum, was supposed to take over as acting president according to paragraph 14 of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution, this could only have subsisted until Zanu PF nominated a new president.
While Zanu PF had 90 days to do this, the party’s chief whip Lovemore Matuke handed the nomination notice of Mnangagwa as the new president yesterday to Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda.
What remains is for Mnangagwa to become president and will assume office when he is sworn in by the Chief Justice Luke Malaba in terms of paragraph 14(5) of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution.
Mnangagwa will serve as president until the next general election, which should be held not later than August 23, 2018.
As soon as he is sworn-in, Cabinet including deputy ministers will stand dissolved in terms of section 108(1)(c) of the Constitution.
Mnangagwa will then pick a new Cabinet.
Information minister and Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo told the Daily News last night that he wished Mnangagwa a good presidency.
“As for the next president, the law is there. The decision taken by the central committee was quite explicit. We want to wish the next president a fruitful endeavour,” Khaya Moyo said.
Asked about the outgoing president, Khaya Moyo said: “The writing was on the wall. By tomorrow, we would have finished impeaching him. We welcome his resignation. He had done so much in pre and post-independence Zimbabwe, but had now overstayed the hospitality of the people of Zimbabwe.
“We wish him a restful time. We want him to realise the people realise what he has done. He deserves a rest. We wish him restful time. We are now focussed on this new development. It is important to solidify unity of the people, we want to promote peace, we don’t want to lose focus,” he said.
Known as the “Crocodile” for his political cunning, the former security chief with strong ties to the military and intelligence apparatus, would inherit an economy mired in recession as gaping inequality, soaring inflation and high unemployment squeeze poor Zimbabweans.
Mnangagwa — an ex-guerrilla fighter who spent a decade in colonial jails with Mugabe for fighting the white minority government— has long been seen as a possible successor.
He was frequently at the president’s side during critical moments of Mugabe’s long, often tumultuous rule, and held important posts such as minister of State security, Defence and Finance, as well as Speaker of Parliament.
A lawyer by profession, Mnangagwa has a reputation as a hardliner and was Mugabe’s chief election agent in the 2008 and 2013 elections, both of which were tainted by violence and accusations of ballot fraud.
Mnangagwa had told Mugabe in a statement released yesterday that there was no reason for them to engage in a tete-a-tete with him as he had been rejected not only by the ruling party but also by the people of Zimbabwe.
He also revealed that he turned down the incumbent’s overtures to return home because his safety and security was not guaranteed.
“I can confirm that Mugabe made contact with me and invited me to return home for a discussion on the current political events in the nation. I told the president that I would not return home now until I am satisfied of my personal security, because of the manner and treatment given to me upon being fired,” he said.
As mystery continues to shroud the former spy-master’s great escape from the country’s secret service and police, Mnangagwa disclosed that a few minutes after he had been sacked from government, the security assigned to him at his residency was withdrawn.
Mnangagwa revealed in his statement yesterday that he had told Mugabe that the current political and constitutional crisis was not a matter between him and the former Zanu PF leader but between the people of Zimbabwe and the latter.
Mugabe’s pillars of strength started to collapse one by one after his controversial wife declared her presidential ambitions, while at the same time the Generation 40 (G40) faction hatched a plan to have Mnangagwa arrested after establishing a case against him.
Thus in his statement, Mnangagwa, who is now set to become the country’s second president in almost four decades said he had no reason to cosy up with Mugabe since he was part of the plot to sink him.
Veterans of the country’s liberation war had threatened yesterday to mobilise thousands to force him out.
Stephen Chan, a professor of world politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, said Mnangagwa needs to do two things.
“The first is to build an inclusive government with the strongest possible technocratic base on fiscal and economic issues,” Chan told the Daily News last night.
“The second is to repair relations with the US and UK, and that means serious work by a Foreign ministry that is not at this moment filled with top talent. But there is no immediate quick fix to the problems of Zimbabwe.”
Chan said the depth of the economic meltdown means there can be some stabilisation in the short term if the West and China make some emergency injections of liquidity.
“But that can’t be relied upon and, even if it occurs, it won’t be sustained. Everyone is having economic problems and transparent economic management is not a Zimbabwean strength right now — so why would anyone put very much money into the country?
“But recovery from economic meltdown, the putting down of strong economic foundations – that will take much longer than people think. It will take a full term of expert and honest government to get this process going,” he said.
Civil rights activist and politics expert McDonald Lewanika said Mnangagwa has a unique leadership opportunity.
“His first order of business is to acknowledge that what has happened is beyond party and that his tasks are about country,” Lewanika said.
“He is in a place to build an inclusive state, sustain the freedom that the gun forces over the last week, and begin the task of making sure Zimbabweans do not suffer through cogent people centred governance.”
Piers Pigou, southern African director of the International Crisis Group, said Mnangagwa has the expectations of an entire nation and millions in the Diaspora in his hands.
“His ruthless reputation precedes him, and will be a constant reminder of that past,” he said referring to the time he served as Zimbabwe’s State Security minister in the 1980s, during Mugabe’s crackdown on an uprising in the country’s Matabeleland and Midlands provinces.
“The so-called Gukurahundi massacres, carried out by a crack military unit trained by North Korean military advisers, resulted in the killings of 20 000 people, according to an estimate by the rights group Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe.
“He should take ownership of this as part of a genuine reconciliation process. But he now also has an opportunity to help set Zimbabwe on a new course, away from the toxic and corrupt partisan politics that has characterised the Zimbabwean polity,” Pigou said.
“Reform and renewal requires a national dialogue, and inclusive process that recognised what is wrong, key aspects of which have been recognised in the narratives unfolding in efforts to secure Mugabe’s removal. “
A peace and security analyst and doctoral researcher, Josphat Munetsi, told the Daily News Mnangagwa’s presidency can never be as bad as Mugabe on two fundamental reasons.
“The two-term limit provided for in the Constitution gives him limited room to abuse his oath of office,” Munetsi said.
“The precedent set by the military remains a possibility against abuse of power and will keep him in check.”