PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa could be psyching up the nation through publicity around abolishing the death sentence to push for a constitutional referendum that can allow him to run for a third term which is prohibited by the current constitution in the same way former Guinea president Alpha Conde did until he was toppled in a military coup.

These fears were raised this week by University of Cape Town political analyst Justice Alfred Mavedzenge.

Mnangagwa is pushing for a third term and could be gaining momentum after his party, Zanu PF, secured a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly.

It has, however, emerged that clinching a two-thirds majority in the lower House is not enough as a two-thirds majority is also required in the Senate.

The Senate has fixed seats for the opposition MPs, but if Zanu PF can win them over, the two-thirds majority can be achievable.

Constitutional lawyers say even if the presidential term limit extension is somehow achieved by Zanu PF, Mnangagwa as an incumbent president will not benefit as any term extension does not apply to incumbents according to the constitution.

Under the circumstances, Mavedzenge, who has a PhD in constitutional law and an LLM in constitutional and administrative law from the University of Cape Town, told The NewsHawks that the recent talk by the government of abolishing the death penalty smacks of a hidden agenda and plays into what the former Guinean leader, Conde, did to circumvent term limits.

“When it comes to Mnangagwa seeking a third term, people are looking at the wrong things such as how he can try to amend the current constitution. It is more than that. In Guinea, the former President Conde was faced by a similar situation where he had exhausted his mandatory two terms,” Mavedzenge said.

“He then found reasons to make the country have a new constitution which included improving the rights of women. In the process, he caused a constitutional referendum which presented the old constitution as new but with few changes that would allow him to run for the third term.”

“My suspicion is that Mnangagwa will do the same. Talk has already started of abolishing the death sentence. That can only be done through a constitutional referendum because the part that deals with that issue is in section 28 of chapter 4 of the constitution which can only be amended through a referendum. In that process, fears abound there will be additions on term limits to benefit Mnangagwa.”

On 7 February this year, Information minister Jenfan Muswere announced that cabinet had approved the abolition of capital punishment following the gazetting of the Death Penalty Abolition Bill last year.

However, Mavedzenge said Mnangagwa, in the same way Conde used provisions to improve women’s rights in Guinea’s constitution to make changes on term limits, can take advantage to use the publicity around the scrapping of the death penalty to prepare the minds of citizens for a constitutional referendum that will allow him to contest for a third term.

“Through publicising the abolition of the death penalty, Mnangagwa will appear to be embracing international standards on the right to life and also get support for the idea from local Zimbabweans. However, in implementing that idea which requires a referendum, we may see the current constitution being presented as new but with the same old provisions that include scrapping of term limits or any conditions that allow Mnangagwa to have a third term,” said Mavedzenge.

In Guinea after Conde had changed the constitution amid bloody protests from the opposition, he went on to win a controversial third term.

However, special forces commander Colonel Mamady Doumbouya staged a coup and placed power in the hands of the military junta.

He declared that personalisation of political life was over and: “We will no longer entrust politics to one man, we will entrust it to the people.” — NewsHawks

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