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Mnangagwa must stop flirting with regime expansion

PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has assumed office three times in six years, and in his inauguration speeches in November 2017, August 2018 and September 2023 he promised sweeping reforms aimed at fostering “re-engagement”.

His public relations team and state media make strenuous efforts to present him as a reformist committed to expanding democratic freedoms for citizens whose bar had been egregiously lowered by his predecessor, the late president Robert Mugabe.

During the ‘Second Republic’, as they call it, Mnangagwa pledged to repeal oppressive Mugabe-era laws that hindered press freedom and the right to protest, promising to cultivate a culture of debate and contestation throughout Zimbabwean society. Despite these assurances, doubts hovered among Zimbabweans and international actors about the sincerity of this “new administration” and its ability to alter the course of the nation.

However, following his victory in the 2023 elections, with his last term in office underway, discussions have arisen in the media, in various sectors of the country and within his Zanu-PF party about the possibility of extending his term until 2030. or seek a third term. Slogans and songs like “2030 ED Ane Aripo” (2023 ED will still be there) have begun to circulate. At a recent silver jubilee ordination anniversary for Archbishop Robert Ndlovu of the Roman Catholic Church, the president even joked about ruling indefinitely, sparking speculation about his intentions.

While the constitution prohibits such extensions, in a country where the seemingly impossible becomes a reality, one wonders what tactics the president could employ to prolong his rule given that his party, Zanu-PF, now enjoys a majority in parliament. . This was necessary after some recalls in the now fragmented and abandoned opposition saw seats taken by Zanu-PF through by-election victories. Will the president read the manual of Togolese President Faure Gnassingbé? Will it pass the litmus test of democracy? Only time will tell.

Given Zimbabwe’s history, characterized by the late President Mugabe’s refusal to relinquish power until a military coup ousted him in 2017, one would hope Mnangagwa would avoid repeating similar mistakes. Breaking with the past also means Mnangagwa avoids term extensions or clings to power beyond constitutional limits. Establishing a positive legacy should be his priority. There is no justification for flirting with the notion of a term extension or a third term. While there may be calls from his family, close circles or supporters for an extension, the president is at a critical moment in which he must demonstrate his authenticity, leadership and commitment to democratic principles. This is a time where his influence as a leader is important.

It is an opportunity for Mnangagwa to demonstrate to his followers and the nation that leaders are temporary custodians of power. After Mugabe’s disastrous and long term, Mnangagwa has the opportunity to set a precedent or a different trajectory by maintaining term limits. This decision would elevate him, mark a departure from the past and instill a new era of politics within his party and nation.

At a time when the opposition is weakened, such a move would further strengthen Zanu-PF and renew confidence in the country’s political system. While legacy projects such as the redevelopment of the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport and the Beitbridge border post, work on the busy Harare-Beitbridge highway and the diplomatic progress of getting countries like Kenya to waive visa fees for Zimbabwean citizens while other SADC countries are taking place To attest to the work President Mnangagwa has done, the decision to pass the leadership button and not seek a third term would be his lasting legacy and set a tone for the future of our fledgling democracy. In any case, he will turn 86 in 2028, a milestone in a country where the life expectancy of men is only 62 years. As the old saying goes, a good dancer knows when to leave the dance floor.

Following the example of his Mozambican counterpart, President Filipe Nyusi, who recently oversaw a smooth transition within FRELIMO, Mnangagwa has the opportunity to emulate that leadership. By looking at this example, Mnangagwa could lay firm foundations for democratic predictability in our country and make it much harder for any future leader to even consider staying a day longer than the constitution allows.

Constitutional crime, as attempted by the now former president of Senegal, Macky Sall, is a dangerous path. It is essential that Mnangagwa pay attention to the voices of Zimbabweans who, according to Afrobarometer polling data, have overwhelmingly supported two-term limits over time since 2002. The data reflects the will of the people, and the voice of the people is the voice of God. , as Mnangagwa once said.

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Nyasha Mcbride Mpani is the Data Alliance for Governance project leader at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation based in Cape Town.

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