Zimbabwe: Stop the Imperial Presidency

editorial

Welcome to 2020, folks. I hope you had restful holidays, although for most people this would have been impossible.What is my prognosis for the New Year? Well, if you are looking for convenient lies, kindly stop reading now and search elsewhere. I will give you only the unvarnished truth.

The Economist Intelligence Unit says Zimbabwe is projected to suffer the second-biggest decline in gross domestic product of any country this year. Venezuela tops the log table of the worst-performing economies at -20,5%, followed by Zimbabwe at -12,9%.

The best-performing economies are Guyana, which is projected to expand by 35% (thanks to a massive oil discovery) and Rwanda at 8,1% (thanks to the impact of genuine economic reform).

Self-serving commentators have attributed the Zimbabwean crisis solely to a devastating drought. That is as illogical as it is preposterous. Zimbabwe's multi-faceted malaise is the logical outcome of incompetence, corruption, toxic politics and dysfunctional governance. The only known cure is comprehensive political and economic reform.

During my two-week break, I travelled the length and breadth of this country. The hunger, disease and economic deprivation have reached catastrophic levels.

Life in the shadow of Zanu PF incompetence and bad governance is no laughing matter. The residents of Kuwadzana in Harare discovered this in bizarre fashion when President Mnangagwa told them to abandon meat and focus on vegetables.

When a national leader seeks to milk his government's own misrule in such a comical manner, the veil of propaganda is pierced and the mask falls spectacularly.

Amid the grave existential threats which have reduced Zimbabweans to a miserable lot, one would expect the leaders to expend their energy on finding solutions to the economic decay. Instead, what do we see?

Mnangagwa wants the power to appoint judges without subjecting them to public interviews. Further, he wants judges of the Constitutional and Supreme courts to be allowed to extend their tenure beyond the age of 70. Effectively, he is perverting the independence of the judiciary by making the judges beholden to a politician. It is a scandalous assault on the sacrosanct principle of the separation of powers.

In a constitutional democracy, there must be checks and balances on the powers wielded by holders of public office. Mnangagwa's outrageous and unacceptable amendment violates that principle. He seeks to scrap the "running mate" clause so that he can enjoy the latitude of hand-picking the two vice-presidents. There is more. He now wants the authority to increase the number of ministers appointed from outside parliament to seven, up from five. You can include an additional 10 non-elected legislators which he will have the prerogative to appoint.

It does not end there. The manipulation of the 2023 general election is already underway. Through the constitutional amendment, the President seeks to decouple the delimitation of parliamentary constituencies from the national census. But if constituency boundaries are no longer directly determined by the objective measure of population size, we are opening the electoral process to gerrymandering and all sorts of chicanery.

In a country that claims to be a constitutional democracy, no political leader should be allowed to create an imperial presidency. Mnangagwa is setting a dangerous precedent by expanding and overreaching his executive authority in total disregard of the wishes of millions of Zimbabweans who voted for the adoption of the 2013 constitution. If passed in its current form--and Zanu PF enjoys a two-thirds majority anyway--there is no doubt that the Constitutional Amendment (Number 2) Bill will subvert the limits initially imposed on the powers of the presidency by the citizens of this country. That would be tragic.

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