LOVEMORE Madhuku is set to step down next month from the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) amid indications that he might launch a new political party to challenge President Robert Mugabe’s hegemony at the next elections in 2018, The Financial Gazette can exclusively reveal.
Madhuku has been the chairperson of the NCA since 2001 when he took over from Morgan Tsvangirai who, two years earlier, had ventured into mainstream politics through the then united Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Since its formation, the NCA has been lobbying for a new constitution for Zimbabwe.
The NCA significantly differed with its former alliance partners during the constitution-making process that birthed a new charter in June this year to replace the colonial Lancaster House constitution, negotiated in London in 1980.
Even though Zimbabwe now has a new charter, the NCA still argues that the supreme law was authored by politicians hence there was still need for the country to craft a people-driven constitution hence it has continued to be relevant. The differences over the approaches used in drafting the new Constitution, style and its content became the genesis of the fallout between the MDC-T, led by outgoing Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Madhuku, the NCA chairperson.
Insiders within the NCA linked Madhuku to the formation of a new political party following the poor showing by ZANU-PF’s rivals in the July 31 polls and the fallout between the assembly and the MDC-T.
ZANU-PF staged a major comeback from its loss of Parliamentary control during the 2008 general polls to garner more than two thirds of the seats in the legislative assembly in the just-ended elections.
President Robert Mugabe got 61 percent of the vote to avoid a presidential election run-off as was the case five years ago. His archrival, Tsvangirai only managed 33 percent of the vote but insists that the poll was rigged.
Should Madhuku enter the political fray, he will need to fight hard for recognition as the leading opposition figure in local politics with his former ally, Tsvangirai, who has been in the trenches, trying to dethrone President Mugabe since 1999.
Blessing Vava, the NCA’s director for information and publicity, confirmed this week that his boss would be stepping down from the chairmanship of the assembly at a congress scheduled for next month.
“The constitution of the NCA is very clear on what is to be done by congress, and leadership renewal is one of those issues. The matter will be discussed and congress delegates would be allowed to elect a new leadership. He (Madhuku) is not seeking another mandate, this congress is essentially about addressing that issue, which has been long overdue,” said Vava.
“He is not seeking another mandate. He has done his part and it’s time for him to focus on other things; we appreciate the role he has played in the fight for a democratic constitution for our country.”
Madhuku, a constitutional law expert who lectures at the University of Zimbabwe, is seen joining hands with MDC99 leader Job Sikhala and leading academics both at home and abroad as well as civic society to form a political party that would fight for opposition space with the MDC-T ahead of the 2018 polls.
Since the 1990s, Tsvangirai and Madhuku were bosom buddies. In 2007, they shared the same hospital ward after being assaulted by the police.
It was this incident that saw then South African president Thabo Mbeki intensifying talks between the MDC-T and ZANU-PF to calm the situation in Zimbabwe which could have gotten out of hand.
Tsvangirai’s relationship with Madhuku showed signs of strain since he entered the inclusive government in February 2009.
This year, the constitutional law expert became more inclined to ZANU-PF’s views, resulting in observers speculating that he had “sold out.”
At the height of disputes over the crafting of the new Constitution, he torched a storm when he suggested that President Mugabe would be justified to call for fresh polls under the Lancaster House constitution.
And in the run up to the polls, he echoed President Mugabe’s sentiments that foreign firms were seeking to re-colonise the country while blasting Tsvangirai, his erstwhile ally, as “narrow-minded.”
This week, political analyst Ricky Mukonza, said should Madhuku and others form a political party, its impact was likely to be felt more in 2023 rather than in 2018.
“As a human being like many of us I do have great respect for Professor Madhuku without being blind to his faults as a leader. The problem that Zimbabwean politics has had in the past decade or so is that they are binary — you are either ZANU or MDC, and that problem still persists going into 2018. Given that background, chances of Madhuku and others’ party making it in 2018 are slim,” said Mukonza.
“However, participation in 2018 will give them an opportunity to establish themselves for future endeavors. 2023 and 2028 would be realistic for them to make a strong impact. My prediction of future politics in Zimbabwe is that they will be politics of coalitions. Beyond 2018, MDC-T and ZANU-PF will not be as strong as they are, also people will be more open minded thus making choices based on issues and ideas. For now, voting for anyone other than (President) Mugabe or Tsvangirai is viewed as wasting votes no matter how sensible one maybe.”
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