HARARE - If Zanu PF hardliners succeed in ousting embattled Vice President Joice Mujuru, it is possible the opposition will take advantage and join forces with Members of Parliament who support her which will result in President Robert Mugabe and the ruling party being booted out, analysts say.
This, they added, could be achieved through mass resignations from Parliament by all forces opposed to Mugabe and Zanu PF, a development that could force new elections to be held in Zimbabwe.
This thinking is emerging as party hawks, including First Lady Grace Mugabe, have stepped up their pressure over the past few months to remove the widowed VP from power, alleging that she is plotting to oust Mugabe, is inept and involved in corruption, and that she is fanning factionalism in the deeply divided party.
But political observers told the Daily News this week that Mugabe’s opponents inside and outside the ruling party could actually capitalise on their numbers, as well as the country’s new constitutional provisions that permit a fresh re-run of elections in the event that legislative chambers were dissolved.
Mujuru’s supporters, who would hope to bank on support from the opposition to trigger new national elections, allegedly have the needed 178 MPs to back the plan, enough to move such a motion to dissolve Parliament.
Alex Magaisa, a law professor at Kent University in the UK, and a former aide to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, confirmed that the new Zimbabwe Constitution allowed Parliament to cause its own dissolution via a two-thirds majority in both Houses, the Senate and the National Assembly, sitting separately.
“In that case, Section 143(2) of the Constitution requires the president to dissolve Parliament,” Magaisa said.
“Section 143(4) provides that once Parliament is dissolved, the president must set dates within 90 days or three months of the dissolution. So, ... the answer is yes, if there is dissolution, this will trigger a new election,” he said.
Magaisa said Section 109 also allowed Parliament, by two-thirds majority of its total membership, to pass a vote-of-no-confidence in the government.
“In that case, the president also has an option to dissolve Parliament and call for a general election,” he said.
“The third possibility is that by pulling out, the idea is that the MPs would resign their seats. An MP is allowed to resign under Section 129(1)(b) of the Constitution. And once an MP resigns, a by-election must follow within 90 days in terms of Section 158(3) of the Constitution.
“Having 178 by-elections at once would in itself be a mini-general election. But that only works if these are MPs in the National Assembly where they hold constituency seats. If they are proportional representation seats, then resigning might not work, as the winning Zanu PF faction will simply replace them with their own favoured ones.
“But I do not see why they would have to pull out. If they can pull together a two thirds majority against the winning faction, they can simply stay put and make life impossible for what will effectively be a minority government,” Magaisa added.
Tawanda Chimhini of the Election Resource Centre said: “If one faction loses at congress, they may want to use Parliament to change the Constitution so that if a president dies, an election is called and this could be based on their control of the electoral process.”
Some legislators loyal to Mujuru have been whispering in quiet corners that they would engage in “Bhora Musango” (work against Mugabe and Zanu PF) if the party’s elective congress next month decided to illegally strip the VP of her position in the party and government.
The faction has watched in consternation as provincial chairpersons aligned to Mujuru have been purged.
Asked if Mujuru’s expulsion would mean the government’s collapse, one of the staunch Mujuru legislator loyalists replied: “Of course.”
But since Mujuru herself has kept her counsel amid a barrage of attacks from her party enemies, amid other claims that she does not feel threatened by the rival faction loyal to Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, it is difficult to say whether this plan is in fact on the table for sure.
For the moment, signs of tension in the government itself have eased since Mugabe continues to leave Mujuru in charge each time he goes on his many foreign trips.
“We’re working on the basis of the government carrying on,” one minister told the Daily News. “But if the worst comes to the worst, there is always a Plan B.”