HARARE – Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC party has revived its bid to impeach President Robert Mugabe, this time with the full support of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA), which has since fallen out with the Zanu PF leader, the Daily News can report.
Mid this week, the former liberation war fighters who are loyal to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, said they were willing to support the country’s largest opposition party in its bid to impeach Mugabe, who has been in power since independence from the British in 1980.
The MDC has seized on the offer, and has started engaging ZNLWVA to agree on the strategic and tactical issues involved. More importantly, Tsvangirai’s party wants to assess if ZNLWVA commands the numbers they claim to have in the National Assembly to enable the impeachment motion to gain traction.
Impeachment refers to an act of calling into question the integrity or validity of a holder of public office.
Zimbabwe has 210 Members of Parliament in the National Assembly and 93 senators, with the MDC having only 70 legislators in the lower house and 20 in the upper house. This means that Zanu PF has an overwhelming majority.
For any impeachment motion to go through, it needs the support of two-thirds majority.
ZNLWVA chairperson Chris Mutsvangwa told a press conference in Harare on Wednesday that they were willing to work with the opposition to get rid of Mugabe, accused by critics of presiding over the country’s economic meltdown and social decay.
“When executive authority is being abused, as is happening, a constitutional Republic like Zimbabwe can use impeachment, elections, or even votes of no-confidence against the monarchists and oligarchists in the G40, who are pushing for a dynasty. We will campaign and support such moves, if this mischief continues. The Constitution has a gamut of provisions to address all types of executive abuse of office including dereliction of duty,” said Mutsvangwa.
MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu yesterday said they were keen on working with Mutsvangwa and his executive, insisting whatever ZNLWVA was offering to do should be within the confines of the law.
“Definitely we are ready to work with them, especially if the things they want to do are legal and constitutional, as long as they want to do it using constitutional means we agree with them because we are fed up with the Mafia regime led by Mugabe,” said Gutu.
In 2014, the MDC tried to impeach Mugabe on account of “unconstitutionally” giving his then deputy, Joice Mujuru, her marching orders from government, but their bid fell through.
They revived the manoeuvres last year, citing concerns over Mugabe’s health and the swift deterioration in the country’s economy, but without any success.
While their grounds for reviving their impeachment drive were still not clear at the time of going to print, on its own, ZNLWVA does not seem to command much influence in the august House because if they had such influence Mutsvangwa would not have been easily ejected from Parliament following his dismissal from Zanu PF in 2015.
Mutsvangwa’s recall triggered a by-election in his former Norton constituency, won by Temba Mliswa.
ZNLWVA can, however, still claim to have some leverage on a number of MPs through its loose alliance to a faction backing Mnangagwa’s elevation to the top office, known as Team Lacoste.
Team Lacoste enjoys a huge following in Masvingo and Midlands provinces, where MPs from the rival Generation 40 (G40) faction are clearly outnumbered.
In Masvingo, 10 legislators have links to Mnangagwa’s bid, while the Justice minister has the support of more than 20 MPs out of the 28 constituencies.
In the remaining eight provinces, G40 seem to have the numerical advantage.
Team Lacoste’s functionaries also occupy strategic positions in the Justice ministry, Zanu PF’s legal department and in the National Assembly.
In spite of these advantages, there has not been any precedent where those who have dared Mugabe in his party have escaped the backlash.
Those who have tried it, including Mutsvangwa himself, have been consigned into the dustbin of political history with some of them rejoining Zanu PF on Mugabe’s terms.
Also, Zanu PF has been effective in using the whipping system to bludgeon its Members of Parliament into rallying behind its agendas and forestalling motions that work against its interests.
Only last month, Zanu PF MPs were whipped into line to pass the controversial Constitutional Amendment Bill (Number One) that had clearly split the ruling party along factional lines when it went through public consultations.
The Bill, once assented into law, will allow Mugabe to handpick the leadership for the Supreme Court and the High Court, unlike before when the selection process was spearheaded by the Judicial Services Commission.
Section 97 of the Constitution states that a president can be removed from office due to physical or mental incapacitation or serious dereliction of duty.
It stipulates that “the Senate and the National Assembly, by a joint resolution passed by at least one-half of their total membership, may resolve that the question whether or not the president or a vice president should be removed from office for serious misconduct; failure to obey, uphold or defend this Constitution; wilful violation of this Constitution or inability to perform the functions of the office because of physical or mental incapacity.”
The Constitution states that upon the passing of a resolution in terms of Subsection (1) of Section 97, the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders must appoint a joint committee of the Senate and the National Assembly consisting of nine members reflecting the political composition of Parliament to investigate the removal from office of the president or vice president as the case may be.
“If the joint committee appointed in terms of Subsection (2) recommends the removal from office of the president or vice-president; and the Senate and the National Assembly, by a joint resolution passed by at least two-thirds of their total membership, resolve that the president or vice president, as the case may be, should be removed from office; the president or vice president thereupon ceases to hold office.”
Gutu told the Daily News that in the past they have tried to convince their Zanu PF counterparts to pass a vote of no confidence against Mugabe with little success, principally because of Zanu PF was using the whipping system to crush dissent.
“Mugabe is overdue for impeachment by Parliament. His errors of both commission and omission are well documented. The man has, on several occasions, trashed the country’s Constitution by making illegal decisions and appointments. He has even refused to give rise to devolution by proceeding to appoint provincial ministers and governors instead of simply following what the Constitution says about devolution,” said Gutu.
“Of course, it’s a public secret that Zanu PF is incorrigibly divided and factionalised. The main legal hurdle is weather we will get sufficient numbers in Parliament to successfully impeach Mugabe. We are not too sure whether Zanu PF Members of Parliament will be bold enough to vote with opposition MPs. Zanu PF has perfected the art of patronage and most of their MPs will be dead scared to vote in favour of impeachment. The Zanu PF whipping system is commandist and ruthless. However, we would gladly welcome any Zanu PF MPs who have the guts to vote with us on an impeachment motion,” said Gutu.
Those behind the impeachment bid seem to be getting their encouragement from their South African counterparts who launched their eighth attempt this week to depose President Jacob Zuma from office.
Zuma, however, survived the impeachment vote championed by opposition parties, mainly the Economic Freedom Fighters and the Democratic Alliance, after that country’s Constitutional Court ruled that he ignored an order to repay State funds spent on his private home.
Two hundred and thirty-three lawmakers voted against the impeachment motion, while 143 voted in favour, including 29 from the ruling African National Congress.