Why Mugabe is still walking as President of Zimbabwe

PrezBobMugabe President Robert Mugabe

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 Source: Nii Adokwei Codjoe

Zimbabwe's ruling party ZANU-PF sacked President Robert Mugabe as party leader on Sunday, 19th November 2017. Though this removal marks the accelerating collapse of the 93-year-old's support and power base, Mugabe still has power and would hang on a little while more.

The military seized power late Tuesday night with reports of Mugabe being under house arrest. The army, however, have been at pains trying to give the impression of obeying the law. They have played down suggestions that their intervention amounted to a coup.

Major General Sibusiso Moyo said in a statement justifying the army's actions on state TV in the early hours of Wednesday that "We wish to make it abundantly clear that this is not a military takeover... We are only targeting criminals around him (Mugabe)".

During his first meeting on Thursday with the army Generals, President Mugabe is said to have bluntly refused to step aside and events on Saturday further this narrative.

Whiles sections of the media reported of mass demonstrations calling for Mugabe to go, reports of negotiations between Mugabe and the army to plot the end of the president's regime seems hoax, as Mugabe appeared at a University graduation same day.

This was followed by a press conference by President Mugabe on Sunday, a widely watched event which failed to result in the much-expected announcement of the President's resignation.

Article 96 of Zimbabwe's constitution provides that the president can resign by submitting a letter to the Speaker of Parliament who must publicly announce the resignation within 24 hours. Though this is the fastest, simplest and least risky way for Mugabe to leave power, he has further resisted this call to step down, a step he has maintained since the crisis began. The sticking point for this resistance is very important because the constitution says that in the event of a President's resignation, he will be replaced by the Vice President.

Hitherto, the military's preferred candidate to succeed Mugabe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, was removed as Vice President last week. The second Vice President -Phelekeza Mphoko- loyal to First Lady Grace Mugabe, cannot be elevated to President as the army would want to avoid him as such.

The army cannot, therefore, ask Mugabe to resign unless they first persuade Mugabe to re-appoint Mnangagwa.

The impeachment route seems appropriate but would also not yield dividend at the moment, although a vast majority of elected ZANU-PF representatives, like the opposition, appear now in favour of removing Mugabe. Hitherto, the process could be slow and like the resignation route, it would currently result in Mphoko becoming Head of State.

The process entails, under Article 97 of Zimbabwean Constitution that National Assembly and the Senate proceedings to remove the president if both pass by simple majority votes against the Head of State in cases of "serious misconduct", "failure to obey, uphold or defend (the) constitution", "violation" of the constitution or "incapacity".

Once the votes are passed, the two chambers must then appoint a joint committee to investigate removing the president. If the commission recommends impeachment, the president can be removed from office after both houses back it with two-thirds majorities.

Clearly, Mugabe is going nowhere anytime soon. The African Union and the Southern African Development Community have warned the army not to try to remove Mugabe by illegal means. The Generals appear to have heeded their warnings and have instead pushed for dialogue with Mugabe while putting pressure on him (through the support for the mass protests against the embattled president).

Columnist: Nii Adokwei Codjoe
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