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Court challenge: Madhuku’s last stand

When Justice George Chiweshe ruled that President Robert Mugabe could not be challenged on setting referendum dates, many felt the death knell had been sounded on National Constitutional Assembly chairman Lovemore Madhuku’s career.

By Nqaba Matshazi

Madhuku, together with the NCA, is valiantly fighting for a “No” vote in the constitutional referendum, but with each passing day, he seems to be swimming against the tide.

The NCA leader claims he is basing his fight on principle, that the draft constitution was political-party-driven instead of being people-driven, but in a country where political expediency reigns over principles, Madhuku might be the biggest loser after the March 16 referendum. The NCA on Friday appealed to the Supreme Court against Justice Chiweshe’s ruling.

Zanu PF and the two MDC parties have already agreed to campaign for a “Yes” vote and considering that, theoretically, they hold the most supporters, and it is highly unlikely that the “no” vote will prevail.

Political analyst, Ibbo Mandaza believes if the  “no” vote were to get at least a tenth of the ballots, Madhuku may use this as a platform to launch his political career.

“If he gets up to 10% of the vote, that should be enough for him to get into politics,” he said. “If he has a political mind, which I think he has, this will be a platform for him to launch a political party.”

Madhuku has in the past expressed a desire to enter politics, with speculation that he would join the MDC-T, that he is seen to be close to.

But in recent days, verbal fights between the NCA and MDC-T have taken a turn for the worse, with the former accusing the latter of failing its supporters by jumping into bed with Zanu PF.

“I think the NCA may be turned into a political party and Madhuku may at some stage contest against his colleagues in the MDC,” Mandaza said, adding that the likelihood of the NCA turning into a party could not be discounted, considering that the MDC had its roots in the labour movement.

He said the NCA was most likely to remain relevant if it morphed into a political party, rather than if it remained in its present state.

Dumisani Nkomo, from Habakkuk Trust, seemed to agree with Mandaza, pointing out that Madhuku’s next step could be entering the political fray.

“Madhuku is likely to go into politics,” he said. “But this is not to say he will join either of the MDCs or Zanu PF because in five years, the political landscape will be totally different.”

Nkomo said Madhuku’s message was quite clear and he should soldier on, although the relevance of his organisation might be somewhat diminished after this month’s referendum.

“Their agenda on the new constitution is clear and he is carving a niche for himself in that regard,” Nkomo continued.

“Their relevance will depend on how they redefine, restructure and rebrand themselves after the referendum.”

Madhuku’s options seem to be limited, he might sink into oblivion and return to lecturing law at the University of Zimbabwe, or this might give him the impetus to kick-start his political career.

NCA will come out stronger—Vava

Blessing Vava, an NCA official maintains that the ruling would only strengthen his organisation, saying the constitutional issue should not be personalised as it was not a Madhuku issue.

“This is not a Madhuku issue, the NCA is advocating for a democratic constitution and we still have a role even after the referendum,” he said.

Vava said his organisation would lobby the next government to revisit the constitution-making exercise as this draft was flawed, as it was a negotiated exercise.

“We are still going to continue campaigning for a new constitution, as this process was dominated by political parties,” he said.

Vava said the NCA’s assembly had agreed that after the referendum and elections there shall be a change of leadership, meaning Madhuku’s reign at the constitution lobby group’s is drawing to an inevitable end.

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