The Zimbabwe government Wednesday introduced a bill in parliament, which would enable President Robert Mugabe to choose his successor when he decides to retire. The Constitutional Amendment Bill seeks to give parliament the power to elect a new president should the incumbent fail to serve a full term. It is expected to become law because of the numerical strength of the ruling ZANU-PF party in parliament. Meanwhile, some political analysts believe the introduction of the bill would seriously undermine the current peace talks between the ruling party and the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Sydney Masamvu is a Zimbabwean political analyst with the International Crisis Group in South Africa. From the capital, Pretoria he tells reporter Peter Clottey that President Mugabe intends to consolidate his grip on power.
“The bill is a self-serving amendment meant to sustain President Robert Mugabe’s stay in power, and to retain the status quo. In other words it is an amendment with some effect, would render SADC (Southern African Development Community) mediation an academic exercise, in so far as it pushes to outflank the SADC mediation process led by President Thabo Mbeki,” Masamvu pointed out.
He said the proposed amendment would be passed because the ruling ZANU-PF party would use its numerical strength to outmuscle the opposition in parliament.
“Given the numerical strength of ZANU-PF in parliament, and given that none in ZANU-PF, even with all those functional fights, can stand up to Mugabe’s plan. It drives the point home that this bill is bound to pass without any major amendment or input from the other sectors of society,” he said.
Masamvu said the amendment empowers President Mugabe to prolong his stay in office.
“Indeed, when you look at the in put of amendment 18, it is to cut the life of parliament, and you harmonize the presidential and parliamentary elections. In a way, Mugabe is tying his political life to the future of prospective parliamentarians. So in a way, those in ZANU-PF aspiring to be parliamentarians would be forced to support Mugabe’s candidature in the coming elections if it means securing their tenures as MP’s (members of parliament) as well,” Masamvu noted.
He urged the Zimbabwe opposition to rally and make an input in the bill or risk playing squarely in the hands of President Mugabe’s plan to perpetuate his rule.
“Indeed, the opposition needs to work hard to influence the content. Otherwise, if ZANU-PF uses its numerical strength it can go unilateral; it will put the opposition on a tight spot in terms of influencing the content because there are so many elements, which deals with; the setting up of the human rights commission and the increase of the seats in the senate and in the upper and lower houses,” he said.