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Why ZANU-PF was really desperate for a two-thirds majority

Mnangagwa and Ramaphosa shaking hands
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The recent elections in South Africa, where the ruling African National Congress lost its majority, polling 40% of the vote down from 57%, has demonstrated the vulnerability of liberation parties especially if they fail to deliver or are seen to be departing from the aims and objectives of the struggle.

By Charles Rukuni

The Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front must be worried. It suffered a similar humiliating defeat in 2008 when it lost to the Movement for Democratic Change then led by Morgan Tsvangirai. But it was salvaged by then President Robert Mugabe’s elections director Emmerson Mnangagwa, now the country’s President.

Though ZANU-PF is sitting on a comfortable two-thirds majority, it knows this could evaporate at the next elections. It failed to attain the two-thirds majority at the elections proper and had to rely on controversial by-elections, hence the need to strategise right now.

Some in the ruling party were worried about the vulnerability of the party way back before last year’s elections, hence their quest for a two-thirds majority so that they could change the country’s constitution.

While a lot of theories are being floated, like the party wanting a two-thirds majority to amend the constitution to give Mnangagwa a third term or to extend his current term to 2030 so that he fulfils his vision of making the country an upper middle income country by 2030, a senior party official told me way back in February 2023 that progressives within the party wanted to change the constitution to preserve the party and not an individual.

ZANU-PF, unlike the opposition, has always been stronger than any of its leaders while the leaders of the opposition, especially Tsvangirai and Nelson Chamisa have always been stronger than the party.

The official said ZANU-PF had been hijacked by opportunists and criminals. The party should, therefore, focus on its ideology so that people continue to focus on why they went to war rather than on what they can get personally.

“There are now too many opportunists in the party and even some criminals that are being protected by the party at its expense,” the official said. “There is need to get rid of this criminal element. This is why Mugabe was removed, but the party continues to accommodate known criminals.”

To ensure that ZANU-PF continues to be in power, the official said, it was necessary to change the country’s constitution and abandon harmonised elections.

“We were sold a dud when we were persuaded to adopt harmonised elections,” the official said. “We were told that this was a cost saving measure because we could hold local government,parliamentary and presidential elections at one go. Indeed it is, but this robbed us of an opportunity to strategise. And we lost the first such harmonised elections.”

The official said the previous arrangement where local government, parliamentary and presidential elections were held separately, sometimes a year or two apart, allowed the party to strategise.

“If the party did not do well in local government elections, we would look at areas of weakness and work on these before the parliamentary elections. Parliamentary elections allowed us to strategise for presidential elections. This allowed us to remain in power and even to increase its vote. The moment we changed this, we lost,” the official said.

Before the harmonised elections parliamentary elections were held every five years while presidential elections were held after six years.

The official said harmonised elections where parliamentary and presidential elections were held at the same time with the president entitled to only two terms had rendered the second term of the President useless.

“The President is literally useless after only the first year of his second term because to protect their positions legislators and aspiring legislators shift their loyalty to his successor. This means the President is literally paralysed for the next four years and cannot therefore carry out any meaningful development projects,” the official said.

“We would like to amend the constitution so that the Parliamentary term remains at five years but the presidential term is increased to seven years. This means that legislators will remain loyal to the President because they know they will leave before him. This will ensure that the President is able to implement development projects with the support of these legislators because they too will be expecting him to endorse them for their next term.”

The official said stretching the presidential term to seven years while extending Mnangagwa’s term to 2030 was purely coincidental. The aim was not to extend Mnangagwa’s term in office but to preserve the party and give the President more power over his lieutenants.

This was originally published here by the Insider Zim.