From the Arab Spring narrowly missed by Zanu PF, the 2017 military coup in Zimbabwe, to the ongoing military coup in Myanmar, chief justices presiding over compromised judiciaries continue to play a crucial role in legitimizing undemocratic transfers of power. While this form of legitimacy is less potent than that derived from the people, it remains essential for leaders like Mnangagwa, who rely on a captured judiciary for support rather than the military. This article sheds light on why Mnangagwa is in need of a judiciary under the influence of figures like Malaba to serve his interests, as opposed to the military faction led by Chiwenga, which is vying for power.

A chief justice not only determines the highest officeholder in the nation but also influences their fate, particularly in illegal power transitions, as witnessed in Zimbabwe in 2017. Chief justices like Malaba align with specific factions and sectional interests, providing them with a shield against power loss, unlike Mugabe’s downfall. This, however, results in a less potent legitimacy, as it lacks popular support, unlike the opposition, which represents the will of the people and the essence of governance consent. Mnangagwa, lacking this consent and legitimacy, turned to a captured and militarized judiciary.

Malaba’s loyalty to Mnangagwa is waning, posing a threat to national security and interests. A judiciary without Malaba, safeguarding Mnangagwa from electoral challenges and coups, could lead to his loss of power and vulnerability to political persecution and loss of illicit wealth. To secure his sycophant’s stay in office, Mnangagwa would need to amend the supreme law of the land, a privilege exploited during the pandemic by Zanu PF to centralize power and sideline public hearings, previously an insurance against constitutional devaluation.

This amendment is a strategic precursor to Mnangagwa’s plan, but the opposition, driven by the pursuit of good governance, is likely to oppose it. Mnangagwa recognizes that life outside Zanu PF is challenging, as the avenues for looting would diminish, mirroring Mugabe’s decline. The anti-corruption commission, initially a tool to target political opponents, could ironically be used against Mnangagwa by a rival faction like Chiwenga. Mnangagwa fears removal from office via impeachment or a sympathetic military coup. To forestall these threats, a loyal and reliable judiciary is imperative, condemning any power transition that lacks Mnangagwa’s endorsement.

Such a condemned power transition would invite negative international attention, potentially leading to military action or economic sanctions against the Chiwenga faction. Mnangagwa would emerge victorious, thwarting ambitious factions and solidifying his grip on power. An extended tenure for Malaba, facilitated by a constitutional amendment, serves Mnangagwa’s interests by ensuring his continued security. To achieve this, Mnangagwa would likely pursue an amendment revoking presidential term limits.

Malaba’s role in sanitizing the amendment is critical, as he owes his extended stay to Mnangagwa. Power, free from accountability and responsibility, is enticing. Malaba, as a sycophant, would likely dismiss any legal challenges seeking to overturn the amendment, securing Mnangagwa’s hold on power beyond 2023.

With an amended constitution allowing for unlimited presidential terms, the military would lose its justification for removing Mnangagwa on constitutional grounds. The judiciary’s endorsement of the illegal amendment would provide it with substantial legitimacy, weakening factions seeking Mnangagwa’s replacement.

The opposition’s strategic course of action involves collaboration with anti-Mnangagwa factions, particularly the Chiwenga faction, to prevent these amendments from passing. This collaboration would protect the constitution from further devaluation and thwart Mnangagwa’s attempts to entrench Zanu PF under his rule. In doing so, the opposition would leverage Zanu PF’s parliamentary dominance against itself, ultimately defeating the amendments and rendering Malaba’s appointment futile.

This article underscores Mnangagwa’s fears stemming from a lack of accountability and transparency during his rule. To remain in power and evade justice, he seeks to secure his position through constitutional amendments and a loyal judiciary, even if it means disregarding democratic principles and the will of the people.

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