2021: A political roller coaster year

December 23, 2021

TINASHE MAKICHI

 

The  2021 political year will be remembered  as a roller coaster  ride.

The year was characterised by many ups and downs, twists and turns, thrills and frights.

Some say it was one of the turbulent years ever experienced in the political space in this country.

At the beginning of the year, the political arena was plunged into sorrow following the outbreak of the second wave of the deadly Covid-19 that went on to claim a lot of people including high profile politicians.

Between January and February, the then Minister of Transport and Infrastructure Development, Biggie Matiza, Ellen Gwaradzimba who was Minister for Manicaland Province, former Zimbabwe Prison Service Commissioner General Paradzai  and the then Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Sibusiso Moyo succumbed to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The political space was also littered with false starts, unfulfilled promises and some hard handed approach towards political consolidation by the country’s largest political parties, ZANU PF, MDC Alliance and MDC T.

ZANU PF under President Mnangagwa during the year solidified its grip.

However, there were some cracks which  started showing when the ruling party wanted to hold Provincial party elections.

The elections had to be halted following massive accusations of infighting and alleged rigging.

The elections are bound to resume this week.

Following a massive campaign around the Drax Scandal, journalist Hopewell Chin’ono saw himself being a guest of the State at Chikurubi Maximum Prison facing a litany of criminal allegations.

He was eventually released on bail in January after three weeks in remand prison.

Chin’ono accused President Mnangagwa’s administration of human rights abuses and corruption while the government accused Chin’ono of spreading false information and inciting violence.

Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme described the 2021 year as an arena littered with false starts, unfulfilled promises and authoritarian consolidation.

“Zimbabwe’s 2021 political arena was littered with false starts, unfulfilled promises and authoritarian consolidation.  ZANU PF under Mnangagwa sought to solidify its grip on power using authoritarian consolidation tactics, rights abuses and to some extent outright violence and politicisation of Covid-19 for political ends.

“The party had sharp internal fissures, with an emboldened G40 causing discomfort, while elite discohesion that saw sections of war vets protesting and legal challenges on the party ensuing. At the same time most of the top brass that engineered the November 2017 coup passed away somehow,” Saungweme said.

He said with the state of affairs in the governing party, the opposition continued to be fragmented, failing to capitalise on the internal challenges bedevilling ZANU PF.

During the year a number of opposition figures were co-opted into ZANU PF while clear divisions were evident in MDC Alliance, and more glaringly, lack of cogent strategy to unseat ZANU PF.

Saungweme said 2021 goes down as a year where there was doom and gloom on the political scene, with unclear pointers to any hope for progressive change in 2022 or in the 2023 elections.

“2021 seems to spell a “suffer continue” scenario for Zimbabweans yearning for change. It’s a clear year where Zimbabweans learnt nothing and forgot nothing from political developments,” he said.

For the first time, a member of the Presidium resigned from the coveted post following sexual allegations.  It was the first that a Vice President had resigned since independence after Kembo Mohadi threw in the towel after allegations that he was involved in illicit relationships with married women, including his subordinate, went viral on social media. VPs have either died in office or fired.

Also, the Human Rights NGO Forum’s executive director Musa Kika approached the High Court on an urgent basis seeking to bar the extension of the term of office of then outgoing Chief Justice Luke Malaba, under the recently passed Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 2) Act which was signed into law by President Mnangagwa on 7 May 2021.

Malaba turned 70 on May 15, 2021 and was due to go on retirement in terms of the provisions of the original 2013 Constitution.

Kika argued that the provisions under which Malaba would benefit from, which were introduced in terms of an amendment to Section 328(7) of the Constitution, would allow the Chief Justice, his deputy, Justice Elizabeth Gwaunza as well as Constitutional Court and Supreme Court judges to have their terms of office extended by the President on production of a medical certificate confirming that such a judge would be fit enough to continue on the bench.

The Constitutional Court dismissed an application by Kika in which he was seeking recusal of judges from hearing a case that is set to legalize former Chief Justice Malaba’s extension of office.

Kika’s application followed a challenge by an activist, Marx Mupungu who was pushing for Malaba’s tenure to be extended.

Kika had filed a fresh application seeking the recusal of judges who were set to preside over a case where Mupungu wanted the Constitutional Court to overturn a High Court ruling on Malaba’s continued stay in office.

The country’s security establishment in August plunged into mourning following the death of Absolom Chimonyo, the Zimbabwe National Army Commander. Chimonyo died from a cancer related illness and he was eventually replaced by Major-General David Sigauke.

MDC Alliance President Nelson Chamisa during the year intensified rural mobilisation campaign that saw him touring Manicaland, Matabeleland and Masvingo.

At some point there were allegations that his convoy was attacked by angry villagers in the Charumbira area of Masvingo.

There are also allegations that Chamisa survived a gunshot attack from unknown assailants in Manicaland Province.

ZANU PF youth league member Sybeth Musengezi lodged a High Court application challenging the constitutionality of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ascendancy as Zanu PF leader in 2017.

Mnangagwa and Zanu PF threatened to sue Musengezi’s lawyers demanding withdrawal of the court challenge.

Musengezi’s lawyers have accused Mnangagwa and Zanu PF’s lawyers of using bullying tactics and reported them to the Law Society of Zimbabwe.

In the month of October this year, dozens of war veterans took to Harare streets protesting against poor pension earnings. The Zimbabwe Republic Police arrested over 20 former freedom fighters.

The defiant former liberation war combatants said they were living in abject poverty while political elites were leading luxurious lives. They said they were ready to be arrested or die for staging the protests meant to push the government to review their pensions.

A Zanu PF stalwart and a member of the Politburo Simon Khaya-Moyo died in November following a battle with a cancer related illness. Khaya-Moyo was widely known for writing a letter of dismissal to the current President Mnangagwa during the height of a fierce power struggle within the ruling party.

Legislators threatened to block Finance minister Mthuli Ncube’s 2022 national budget he presented citing that he completely disregarded their contributions during the consultation process.

The budget had to pass through both houses of parliament before it could be implemented. Ncube unveiled a US$927.3bln national budget but at a post-budget seminar held in Harare, legislators took turns to blast him, alleging he did not take into consideration their input at the Victoria Falls pre-budget seminar.

They argued that the budget was full of surprises and omitted a lot of what they had discussed in the resort town.

In the beginning of December this year,  fissures within the MDC T continued to widen with the political party’s Vice President Thokozani Khupe through her lawyers demanding minutes of a recent national council meeting as she suspected the opposition party deliberated on recalling her from Parliament.

The national council meeting was held on November 26, 2021 at the Richard Morgan Tsvangirai House, popularly known as Harvest House in Harare.

The year 2021 for MDC T was characterised by serious contestations with Khupe and allies failing to accept the results of the political party’s elective congress.

About two weeks ago, a traditional leader, Chief Murinye castigated the President Emmerson Mnangagwa administration for failing to deal with corruption.

Chief Murinye, born Ephias Munodawafa, made headlines after making bold statements while addressing mourners at the funeral of Public Service Commission Head of the Pay and Benefits Development and Management Agency Elson Gonye in his area. The traditional leader told mourners that there was every reason to call upon Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander General Phillip Valerio Sibanda and his soldiers to repeat what they did in November 2017.

The move forced President Mnangagwa to summon chiefs to the capital in Harare  last Friday where his deputy Constantino Chiwenga read the riot act and warned that criticising the President in public was unacceptable and would not be tolerated.

Chiwenga said Chief Murinye would be investigated.

 

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