Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum executive director Musa Kika says frantic efforts to pass Constitutional Amendment No.2 is a sure sign President Emmerson Mnangagwa was anticipating contested elections in 2023.
Kika was speaking at Thursday's press conference where some 46 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) laid into the amendment that gives Mnangagwa power to handpick judges in the country's highest courts.
This includes the Constitutional Court, the only one empowered to determine election related disputes.
He said Mnangagwa had realised the next election could once again be decided by the Constitutional Court as happened in 2018 and wanted people "beholden" to him (Mnangagwa) on the bench.
"The judicial office is an important office in any constitutional democracy, more so, in Zimbabwe because of the trajectory which we have traversed in the last two decades where we have seen the judiciary act as power brokers primarily because of our contested elections," said Kika.
"In the last so many elections, elections have been going to court for determination particularly the presidential election, 2018 is a fresh memory; it was the Constitutional Court that eventually decided who was the president.
"Because in Zimbabwe, elections remain contested, we are still far from proper electoral reforms. We are likely going to see another contested election in 2023 where the Constitutional Court is called upon to determine who eventually takes presidential office.
"So, in anticipation of that, one would imagine the president would want to ensure there are judges that are beholden to him in that constitutional court, elected, promoted to office by him, who will have to decide who becomes president in the event of a likely presidential election dispute."
Kika said another reason Mnangagwa sought the amendment was to extend the tenure of "certain individuals" he might need in the judiciary beyond their retirement age.
Chief Justice Luke Malaba, who ruled against MDC Alliance candidate Nelson Chamisa's challenge in 2018, is expected to reach retirement age on 15 May 2021.
However, reports indicate the country's topmost jurist could be in for another dance in the national courts, at least until 2023.
Added Kika: "It is a clear exercise to us of judicial capture, of packing the judiciary.
"One of the reasons why we very much believe there is an attempt to tinker with extension of tenure beyond retirement age is to ensure that certain individuals in particular are there in that court come 2023."
Constitutional Amendment No.2 moved to Senate last week after Zanu PF used its majority advantage plus sympathetic MDC-T votes in the lower house against a handful of MDC Alliance MPs.
There has been uproar since; with critiques arguing the move is tantamount to tearing Zimbabwe's constitution before aligning yesteryear laws to the almost eight-year-old document.