The First Lady Grace Mugabe said during her recent rallies that Mugabe had “unparalleled” wisdom to lead the country and was ‘anointed to rule for life, adding that a special wheelchair would be made for the 91 year old leader to rule from.
People’s Democratic Party spokesperson Jacob Mafume said old age was an ailment in itself which made it compulsory for people to “hang their boots and retire.”
“These are worrying statements by the First Lady. Most of the people currently in cabinet are out-patients from old people’s homes where they should be housed for their protection. They should not be governing this country or any ministry,” Mafume said.
“People must understand that old age is an illness with no known cure. It is the biggest ailment that humanity has failed to deal with. The idea that a country can be ruled by people who have both feet in the grave is sad, if not tragic. The sad thing is that the people of Zimbabwe have no clue how to protect themselves from the First family.”
He added: “A country that will be ruled by a sick person in a wheelchair will be a sick country indeed, with an economy that will continue to sink, and it will become a prison of suffering for its people. We are going to enter a period of lamentations if that happens and as Zimbabweans we can no longer wait for 2018 because we will have perished.”
Mafume said if Grace’s words were to come true, civil action in the form of demonstrations would become necessary followed by impeachment of the President on the grounds of incapacitation.
“This can be done by approaching the High Court for a medical examination to be done to determine the President’s fitness. This will then be referred to Parliament for impeachment procedures to begin,” he said.
In a paper produced last week by the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) titled The Easy Guide to Transition in Zimbabwe (1), researcher Derek Matyszak said it was possible for the President to be impeached on the grounds of incapacity.
Matyszak said according to provisions in the sixth schedule of the constitution, read together with section 26 (2) of the Zanu PF party constitution, “immediately upon the death, retirement or incapacity of the president, the person who was last nominated to act as President will act as President until a new President is appointed’.
On the correct procedure to follow if the President was declared incapacitated, Matyszak said a joint sitting of the Senate and National Assembly would be convened to investigate after a resolution to this effect is passed by an affirmative vote of 50% of the total membership of both Houses, and not merely those present.
“The Parliamentary Standing Rules and Orders Committee must then appoint a joint committee comprising nine members drawn from both Houses reflecting the political composition of Parliament to investigate the question of incapacity.
“If the joint committee recommends that the President be removed on account of incapacity, and two thirds of the total membership accepted the recommendation, then the President ceases to hold office from that moment,” Matyszak said.
Political science graduate James Katso said it was unacceptable for the First Lady, who is merely a Zanu PF Women’s League secretary, to believe that she held a constitutional position to make a declaration that her husband can rule forever, even from a wheelchair.
“It is the prerogative of the Zimbabwean electorate to choose who should lead Zimbabwe and how. As it is, the constitution stipulates incapacitation as one of the conditions that a sitting President may be removed from office.
“So, for Grace to suggest that a wheel-chair bound President may be effective in governing this country is at odds with common sense and will not be in the best interest of the country,” Katso said.
But, political analyst Takura Zhangazha said being wheelchair bound did not necessarily mean intellectual incapacity.
“In politics however, it unfortunately tends to be viewed as a sign of weakness even if one was born physically challenged at birth or by accident. In the case of the First Lady’s statements concerning the President, she is correct in that he legally can fulfil his term of office until 2018 as long as he is not incapacitated,” Zhangazha said.
“Being in a wheelchair does not mean incapacity to make decisions. The other side of this however is that the image of a President in a wheelchair is generally not a favourable one in terms of public perception.”
He said as of now, as long as Mugabe was of a sound mind there could be no evident intention to replace him before his term of office ended.
“However, behind the scenes speculation and manoeuvring to replace him will increase as soon as he is presented in public in a wheelchair. That also means factionalism will increase within the ruling party amid scrambling to be the successor,” Zhangazha said.