There is always a vacancy Mr. President!

It is always intriguing when I hear the Zimbabwe President - in his attempts to ward off any discussion on his succession - remind the nation that he is still alive, and as such, there is no vacancy for the presidency.

President Mugabe

President Mugabe

In his recent televised interview on the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), the 92 year old President Robert Mugabe even jokingly said that maybe he should punch someone to remind people that he was still alive.

Hearty joke indeed!

However, a sadder and more serious story lies beneath that apparent joke.

It appears that the President is missing one very important point – Zimbabwe is supposed to be a parliamentary democracy, and not a monarchy, and as such, the issue of succession does not come up only after the incumbent’s death.

In fact, I stand corrected, because even in a monarchy, the issue of succession is sorted out well before the death of the incumbent sovereign.

That is why in a monarchy such as the United Kingdom, the crown prince has already been identified as Prince Charles, and as such, the succession issue has already been sorted out.

The same goes for other kingdoms like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and so forth.

As such, it goes without saying that, if a kingdom can freely and openly discuss and sort out its succession issues, why then can a parliamentary democracy fail to do so even more freely and openly.

Actually, in a parliamentary democracy, such as Zimbabwe, the post of President is open for contestation any time of the year, 365 days (or 366  in 2016) of the year.

This is as a result of the Constitutional provision in Section 97, which clearly defines terms for the removal of the President or Vice-President from office.

It is clear from this Section of the Constitution of Zimbabwe that the Senate and the National Assembly (the Parliament of Zimbabwe) may at any time resolve to remove the President from office, in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.

Section 97(1), then clearly stipulates the reasons that a President may be removed from office, which are varied.

For the Constitution to carry such a provision for the removal of the President by parliament, clearly shows that death is not the only way the office of the President may become vacant.

I can not speak for the Constitution of ZANU PF, but if this party claims to be democratic, then the position of president should also be freely and openly contested without waiting for the incumbent to retire of die.

According to what the President said in the ZBC interview, he was chosen by ZANU PF to be the party’s Presidential candidate in the 2013 elections.

If we are going to take his choice of the word ‘chosen’ seriously, it would mean there was some form of an ‘election’, ZANU PF style (I really say this with tongue in cheek) to select its Presidential candidate.

If that was the case, then it means even ZANU PF accepts that the office of President is not only vacant through retirement or death, but may be contested.

In fact, there is always a vacancy for the office of the President, and in any democracy, people should freely position themselves for it.

That is why some countries as the United States of America are currently holding very interesting primary elections for both the Democratic and Republican parties to choose their Presidential candidates for the November 2016 US Presidential Elections.

However, as both the late 17th President of the United States Andrew Johnson (1865-1869) and the 42nd US President William J. Clinton (1993-2001) can testify, the President can be impeached and be removed at any time.

The people of Zimbabwe also demand and deserve to see democracy at work in their own country.

The issue of the presidency is not a personal fiefdom.

Therefore, even in ZANU PF, this issue should be openly and freely discussed and debated without fear.

The problem that the country is now faced with is of a party that knows no democracy.

This is a party that had nurtured and accepted dictatorship throughout its history, and as such, lacks maturity when it comes to handling something as simple as leadership renewal.

Although, this is unfortunately also a problem with all the other opposition parties, I am targeting ZANU PF because it is the ruling party, and as such, what goes on in there also affects the whole country.

ZANU PF built a personal cult around President Mugabe, and now that he is refusing to leave office until he dies or voluntarily steps down, they are crying.

Joice Mujuru, the former ZANU PF and Zimbabwe Vice-President, recently assumed that Mugabe was probably planning to turn the party’s presidency into a family dynasty.

Whose fault is it?

Are they not the same people that made him to be who he is today?

The President and ZANU PF should finally accept the concept of democracy and acknowledge that the issue of succession should be encouraged to be openly and freely discussed.

As failure to do so, is what has led Zimbabwe to witness such childish shenanigans in ZANU PF, that have adversely affected the operations of the county.

Zimbabweans have suffered enough due to this infighting, and demand that ZANU PF sorts out its mess as a matter of urgency.

They created this mess, so they should clean it up.

There are more important issues adversely affecting Zimbabwe, and it is time for them to grow up.

The infighting in ZANU PF clearly shows how much they are not used to the concept of democracy.

It is like children who grew up without being exposed to any concept of playing – once they becomes adults, they will try to compensate for that lost childhood by indulging in childishness even at the age of 40 years.

We, as a country, should start learning the concept of democracy and have it inculcated in ourselves.

It is so sad that we witness so much leadership squabbles in the various organisations that we have in this country, as a result of not appreciating this concept.

If I formed an organisation today, for instance, why should I believe that I should automatically be the leader?

We, as Zimbabweans should learn that if one decides to form an organisation for whatever cause, they should also appreciate that they might not be chosen to lead that organisation should they have enough members for an elective congress – that is democracy.

Therefore, if one is to decide to form an organisation with the sole hope of leading it, then they miss the point.

It goes to show that the motive behind setting up the organisation was purely a selfish one.

This is because, if one had a noble cause – for instance, fighting for social justice – then fulfilling the cause comes first, and as such, the founder of the organisation should be eager for anyone who is best suited to lead such an organisation be elected, so that the cause may be best fulfilled.

The same goes for leadership of a country.

The interests of the country should always come first, above personal ambitions.

A true leader is one who is willing and eager to encourage others to take over the reigns for the good of the country.

Actually, my father taught me something very important about leadership, that is ‘a great leader always surrounds him/herself with people who are better than he/she is’.

Any leader who is self-delusional enough to believe that they are the best thing to ever happen to a country – some actually believing that they are God-sent – is more of a liability than anything else.

Any good leader accepts that leadership renewal brings with it fresh ideas, which are inevitably good for the country.

That is why we now have Presidential term limits in our Constitution, because leadership renewal is not only necessary when there is poor leadership, but as a way of fostering fresh and innovative ideas.

Therefore, there is always room for leadership renewal, whatever the reason, and the office of the President – as the highest office in the land – should always be available for renewal.

Once as Zimbabweans we appreciate such a concept, we are on our way to true democracy and all its goodness.

° Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a community activist, communications specialist, writer, and journalist. He writes in his personal capacity, and welcomes feedback. Please feel free to call/WhatsApp: +263782283975, or email: [email protected]com

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