Zim must learn from Zambia

HARARE - Zimbabwe faces a herculean task of managing the country’s first complex succession politics from more than three decades of President Robert Gabriel Mugabe’s iron rule to a new leader in the not so distant future.

Even though the Constitution is crystal clear in terms of the transitional provisions in the event of death, resignation, incapacitation or removal from office of the incumbent, it is the real hard politics of succession that demands a continued search for a practical way of attaining a peaceful and democratic transition especially from the grip of entrenched authoritarian institutions and practices. This was evident in Zimbabwe’s failure to ensure democratic transfer of power from Mugabe to the winner of the March 29, 2008 presidential election.

The Zimbabwean president is turning 91 years old soon, his health is said to be deteriorating and even these become non-factors the Constitution only allows him to seek one more term of office in 2018.

This reality signifies that Zimbabwe is officially in a transitional era from Mugabe’s rule to the unknown. The consequences are evident in the internecine politics within the ruling Zanu PF where life has become “nasty, brutal and short.”

The party is under threat of explosion from the succession centrifugal forces as factions jostle to strategically position for the unavoidable succession of Mugabe. Following a number of blocked transitions on the African continent, what are the critical enablers of a peaceful transition? Using evidence from Zambia’s sixth post-colonial transition from one president to another, there is a possible role for civil society in Zimbabwe in defining the path for Zimbabwe.

Democratic transition is a situation where there is a competitive, free and fair electoral environment that leads to a legitimately elected leader peacefully and constitutionally taking over State power.

In Zambia, the Office of the President was first held by Kenneth Kaunda in 1964 following independence from British colonial rule. Kaunda was democratically succeeded by Frederick Chiluba in 1991 following a general election. Chiluba was replaced by Levy Mwanawasa in an election in 2002 after serving two terms as prescribed by the Zambian Constitution.

Mwanawasa died in office and Rupiah Banda constitutionally took over as acting president. Banda subsequently lost an election and was replaced by Michael Sata who took over in 2011. However, Sata died in office on October 28, 2014 and Guy Scott assumed office as acting president. Scott could only act for 90 days as prescribed in their Constitution hence the presidential by-election on January 20, 2015 where 11 candidates contested to fill the vacant seat of president.

The most important point here is that Zambia, like South Africa, has managed a consistent democratic transition from one president to another and there are lessons to be learnt for the region in general and Zimbabwe in particular.

Constitutional clarity without constitutionalism does not lead to a successful transition, but that the disposition and practice of the following institutions — Judiciary, political parties, military, civil society, media, elections management body and informal institutions — function to either enable or disable transitions, and that the role they play accounts for the successful transitions in Zambia.

Comments (3)

What do we have to learn from Zambia? Those street battles after the death of Sata? shame on you Lewanika. You are clinging on to power at Crisis Coalition just like Mugabe. You have failed to manage your own succession politics at Crisis Coalition.

godfrey gudo - 29 January 2015

What do we have to learn from Zambia? Those street battles after the death of Sata? shame on you Lewanika. You are clinging on to power at Crisis Coalition just like Mugabe. You have failed to manage your own succession politics at Crisis Coalition.

godfrey gudo - 29 January 2015

We don't learn anything from anybody because we don't want to do anything properly - it's the ZPF way or no way!

saundy - 29 January 2015

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