PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa plans to amend Zimbabwe’s Constitution to recognise “official opposition” in a move critics say is meant to soothe MDC Alliance leader, Nelson Chamisa, NewsDay can reveal.
Chamisa, who lost a petition challenging the results of the July 30 election at the Constitutional Court (ConCourt), has maintained that he won the poll and that he has a legitimate claim to lead the southern African nation.
He frequently describes Mnangagwa as an “illegitimate” President after rejecting the court ruling that confirmed the Mnangagwa victory although last week he said he was open to talks “to resolve the question of legitimacy”.
Mnangagwa, currently attending the United Nations General Assembly, said during an interview with the US’s Bloomberg TV at the weekend that he was considering officially recognising his political nemeses as an opposition leader.
Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi yesterday said there would be need for a constitutional amendment to accommodate Chamisa once Mnangagwa and his arch-rival reach an agreement.
“It will need that (constitutional amendment) if there is a political agreement given the fact that he (Chamisa) is not an elected MP as things stand. The amendment will need to reflect the agreement, but that is up to the parties,” he said.
“The parties would need to negotiate and agree. Once that is in place, we will then have a look at the Constitution and see what needs to be done to accommodate the new set-up.”
While speaking during the interview in the US, Mnangagwa was quoted as having said: “Under our Commonwealth parliamentary democracy, the opposition is recognised; we recognise the leader of the opposition in Parliament. This is what we are going to do ourselves.”
The Zanu PF leader is seeking to rid the country of its long-held international pariah status gained under former President Robert Mugabe over alleged human rights abuses.
He is also trying to woo investors to kick-start an ailing economy that has been navigating turbulences since the turn of the century characterised by cash shortages and high unemployment.
Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo said the ruling party was now awaiting Mnangagwa’s return for the process to begin.
“The President has made a pronouncement, but he is away. We need to give it time so that on his return, he will need to consult his counterpart in the MDC (Chamisa). Once the consultations are done, the process might then begin in earnest,” Moyo said.
It is understood that no formal communication has taken place between Chamisa and Mnangagwa.
Yesterday, Chamisa’s spokesperson, Nkululeko Sibanda, however, said his boss despised the “mafia-coloured politics, where the gang leader thinks that all problems are solved by the parcelling of perks and positions,” adding Zimbabwe was “bigger than people who believe that they can abuse State coffers to corruptly buy the presidency they lost in an election”.
“Zimbabwe has a crisis of governance and legitimacy,” Sibanda said.
“The current frenzy about an offer from the illegitimate President is misplaced. There is no offer from the illegitimate President Mnangagwa and no dialogue or contact with him. However, with the assumed offer in mind, president Chamisa believes that the struggle is by and for the people of Zimbabwe.”
Mnangagwa won the presidential election by a slim 50,67%, beating Chamisa, who garnered 44,3%, but the opposition party has refused to recognize his victory, saying the ConCourt had foiled his bid to subpoena the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to provide critical proof to bolster his case.
Opposition legislators last week snubbed Mnangagwa’s State of the Nation Address, shouting “thief!” during the official opening of the first session of the Ninth Parliament.
The move by Mnangagwa was important to remove the toxic nature of local politics, an analyst told NewsDay.
Constitutional expert and human rights lawyer, Sharon Hofisi, who is a lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, said Mnangagwa’s gesture was important in bringing political stability in the country.
He said although Zimbabwe was largely a constitutional democracy, it doesn’t mean it does not appeal to other forms of democracy.
He said there has been a shift even in the West towards progressive democracy and appointing an opposition leader as an official opposition demonstrates an understanding of the influence of domestic policies on the international arena.
“Chamisa is an opposition leader and he should be able to co-exist peacefully with the Zanu PF under the arrangement, but it is subject to his approval,” Hofisi said.
He said that there was nothing wrong about recognising that Chamisa, who as an official opposition leader, serves a constituency.
Such recognition can be enshrined in the Constitution if it serves the greater good of the country.