Mnangagwa Considers Constitutional Amendment to Extend Second Term

President Emmerson Mnangagwa
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HARARE – President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his close political allies are exploring constitutional and legal options to extend his time in office by two years beyond his current term’s end in 2028, without pursuing a controversial third term.

This strategic pivot follows intense internal opposition led by Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga and his faction within Zanu-PF.

“Mnangagwa’s third term project was blocked by the army. Now he has a new plan,” a senior Zanu-PF official disclosed to The NewsHawks. The revised strategy involves amending the constitution and electoral law to separate parliamentary and presidential elections, allowing the next parliamentary elections to proceed as scheduled in 2028, but delaying the presidential election to 2030.

This approach is considered less complex than securing a third term, which would necessitate a two-thirds parliamentary majority and a referendum.

Currently, the Zimbabwean constitution’s Section 91 limits presidents to two terms. Amendments to this section cannot benefit incumbents, as stipulated by Section 328(7), and any changes would require a referendum under Section 328(9).

Section 158 mandates that general elections occur within a 30-day window before Parliament’s five-year term expires. Mnangagwa was sworn in on August 26, 2018, meaning the next elections must be held between July 5 and August 4, 2028.

Insiders argue that de-harmonising the elections presents a viable path for Mnangagwa to extend his rule without immediate elections, an approach he finds more appealing than the politically fraught third term.

Recently, Mnangagwa publicly renounced any plans for a third term, stating in a pre-election interview that his second term would be his last. However, his abandonment of the third term bid came after substantial military resistance.

Vice-President Chiwenga, who is poised to succeed Mnangagwa, is reportedly frustrated by Mnangagwa’s reneging on their 2017 coup agreement for a single term transition. Mnangagwa initially planned an inclusive post-coup government but faced internal opposition when he attempted to bypass Chiwenga by appointing other deputies.

In 2018, after the elections legitimized the coup, Mnangagwa’s faction promoted the “Mnangagwa for 2023” slogan, now evolving to “Mnangagwa for 2030”. Chiwenga and his military allies have moved to counter this.

Mnangagwa’s history of constitutional maneuvering dates back to 2005, when former President Robert Mugabe considered delaying the 2008 presidential election to align with parliamentary elections. This move faced significant opposition and internal strife within Zanu-PF, leading to Mugabe eventually contesting the 2008 elections amid economic turmoil and political violence.

Mnangagwa, leveraging his experience from the Mugabe era, is now attempting a similar strategy to extend his rule to 2030. This plan involves a constitutional amendment to de-harmonise elections, potentially allowing him to remain in power without a direct election in 2028.

Despite Mnangagwa’s public denial of third term ambitions, his supporters continue to campaign for his extended leadership. This internal Zanu-PF conflict underscores the ongoing power struggle, with Chiwenga and the military positioning for a post-Mnangagwa era.

Mnangagwa’s reliance on the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) over the military in the last election has further strained relations, leading to military-backed moves to block his extension plans. As Chiwenga gains political ascendancy, backed by strategic military appointments, Mnangagwa faces increased pressure to navigate this complex political landscape.

President Mnangagwa’s plan to extend his rule involves constitutional amendments to separate parliamentary and presidential elections, allowing for an additional two years in power without pursuing a contentious third term. This move reflects historical precedents and ongoing factional dynamics within Zimbabwe’s ruling party.