A lot of interest has been generated over whether President Robert Mugabe will hand over the Presidential baton stick to a successor during his lifetime in the manner he happily did the Sadc chairmanship to Botswana President Ian Khama last week.
BY OBEY MANAYITI
The subject spilled into Parliament on Thursday, albeit loaded with irony which invited the ire of Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda. Two MDC-T legislators Amos Chibaya (Mkoba) and James Maridadi (Mabvuku-Tafara) subtly lampooned Mugabe over his failure to “peacefully” hand over the baton stick to a successor.
The legislators laid on Mugabe while contributing to debate on the Labour Amendment Bill.
“I would like to thank our President for handing over the Sadc chairmanship to Khama because I thought he was going to refuse,” Chibaya said as he introduced his speech.
Chibaya raised the ire of the Speaker who quickly interjected: “Order, the final comment made by Hon Chibaya is derogatory of the Head of State and the Standing Orders are very clear on that one.
“As a long-serving Member of Parliament, you are aware that the chairmanship of Sadc or AU [African Union] is rotational upon expiry of one year, so there is no question there of someone sticking to a position,” said Mudenda demanding that Chibaya withdraw his statement.
Maridadi, however, brought the pun back as he concluded his own speech: “The time has come for him [Mugabe] to hand over power on rotational basis. I congratulate him [for handing over power to Botswana’s Khama] as a patriotic Zimbabwean.”
Once again, Mudenda rebuked the MP telling him he should not think him or the House would be lost to the unkind sarcasm.
Sadc has a rotational chairmanship where Heads of State within the region assume the chairmanship for a year. The post is largely ceremonial. But, many people in Zimbabwe were excited about Mugabe stepping down and watching him personally handing to Khama the instruments of the chair.
The opposition claims Mugabe lost the 2008 Presidential elections to MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai, but refused to hand over power.
Analysts and politicians said it was time for Mugabe to also hand over the reins and step down as Zimbabwe’s President as he had overstayed.
MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu said Mugabe had been lampooned in Parliament because he had clung onto power for more than three decades and thwarted any attempts to discuss his succession.
“Although the Sadc chairmanship is on a rotational basis, the mere occasion of seeing Mugabe handing over the chairmanship to someone else provided reason for media fascination and public exhilaration,” Gutu said.
“People were just imagining and indeed, hoping that one day soon he will also voluntarily step down as the President of Zimbabwe. He has certainly overstayed his welcome as the country’s leader and millions of Zimbabweans can’t wait to see him step down from power,” he said.
Chairperson of the Research and Advocacy Unit, professor Lloyd Sachikonye said some of the reasons why the Zimbabwean case was considered different from other countries in the Sadc region were that former regional presidents had successfully handed over power to new blood.
Political analyst Gladys Hlatshwayo said people were just interested in observing how Mugabe would hand over the baton to Khama as the two leaders were known to have a cold relationship.
“After all, this is a chairman who has been in power for 35 years in his country. Some Sadc citizens were not too sure whether transfer of power to the next chairperson was going to happen. They say charity begins at home, and understandably, Sadc citizens were anxious. Moreso, Mugabe handed over the Sadc leadership to a country that has been very critical of his regime,” Hlatshwayo said.
Political analyst Pedzisai Ruhanya said there was a great different between handing over Sadc chairmanship and handing over the presidency.
“That is a misguided fear because in the case of Sadc, a country serves for only one term as chair. However, the constitution of Zimbabwe is clear that the President serves for two terms.”