In a dramatic turn of events that could rival any political thriller, Zimbabwe’s political landscape has been shaken to its core. Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, with the backing of the military, has put a decisive stop to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s aspirations for a third term in office. This bold move has compelled Mnangagwa to publicly renounce any intentions of bending the constitution to maintain his grip on power, a plea that had been loudly championed by his supporters.

Mnangagwa’s strategy in recent times has involved leaning heavily on the state security service, the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), and its operational arm, Forever Associates Zimbabwe (FAZ), to fortify his position. This approach seemed effective in securing his last electoral victory despite murmurs of internal sabotage. However, this reliance on the CIO over the military has backfired spectacularly as military commanders, previously silent but increasingly disgruntled, have now made their dissatisfaction known. The clear message from the military has been that Mnangagwa’s reliance on the FAZ and his initiatives would no longer be tolerated.

The pivot of military allegiance from Mnangagwa to Chiwenga has been nothing short of dramatic. Chiwenga’s rising influence was unmistakably highlighted by the appointment of his ally, Lieutenant-General Anselem Sanyatwe, as the commander of the Zimbabwe National Army. This appointment reversed Mnangagwa’s earlier decision to sideline Sanyatwe to an ambassadorial role in Tanzania, which was part of a broader purge of military officials following the 2017 coup that installed Mnangagwa as President.

Despite this overt power struggle, Chiwenga seemed poised for the presidency, especially after his high-profile wedding to Miniyothabo Baloyi last December. Meanwhile, Mnangagwa covertly continued to explore possibilities for extending his presidency beyond the constitutionally mandated terms. His subtle attempts to test the waters for a third term were initially supported by Zanu PF youths, under his indirect endorsement. However, the viability of this campaign began to crumble as it became clear that pursuing a third term would be politically catastrophic.

When faced with the stark political realities and recognizing the depths of opposition to his continued rule, Mnangagwa made a strategic retreat. He now positions himself as a steadfast defender of the constitution and the rule of law. This is a significant pivot from his earlier stance, as his re-election was previously marred by constitutional irregularities and legal controversies.

In an exclusive interview with “Brick by Brick” magazine, Mnangagwa denied any ambitions for a third term, dismissing such notions as mere products of the Zimbabwean public’s imagination. He emphasized the ruling party Zanu PF’s commitment to democratic principles and adherence to constitutional governance.

According to the current Zimbabwean constitution, any extension of presidential term limits would require a two-thirds majority in Parliament to amend Section 91. However, even if such amendments were passed, Section 328 (7) of the constitution ensures that they would not benefit the current incumbent but would only apply to future presidents.

This episode in Zimbabwe’s political drama from Mnangagwa’s rise to power following a coup to the recent events that thwarted his ambitions for a third term highlights the intricate dance of ambition, loyalty, and constitutionalism. As Mnangagwa steps back, professing adherence to the rule of law, the nation and observers alike remain vigilant. In Zimbabwe’s volatile political theater, the script is always subject to change, keeping everyone on the edge of their seats.

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