Lovemore Ranga Mataire
Presidential frontrunner, Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zanu-PF is on record saying the 2018 harmonised elections will give birth to a “Second Republic”. Historically, a number of countries ushered in what were referred to as Second Republics.
Nigeria, France, Spain and Ghana are some of the countries that historically ushered in epochs that were given the nomenclature of a Second Republic.
A Second Republic speaks of a systematic structural departure from a preceding political dispensation. It can either be human induced or can come through natural causes.
In the context of Zimbabwe, the First Republic refers to the period of independence up to the time when first executive president Robert Mugabe resigned last year.
It refers to what one columnist said was a departure from the “peculiar conflicts and adversarial politics” personified by Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
Mugabe’s era is a First Republic primarily shaped and defined by the decolonising agenda.
It is a period of triumphs and tribulations of the Zimbabwean national project leading to the adoption of a home-grown constitution.
The resignation of Mugabe in November last year, ended an era largely shaped by an incumbent so much steeped in the demagoguery of the decolonising agenda, which at the end of his reign got conflated and entangled by “bedroom” stimuli.
The gods must have conspired to ensure that the two men, who personified the larger part of Zimbabwe’s post-colonial politics departed at the same period.
One departed politics by resigning after mass pressure while the other (Tsvangirai) succumbed to cancer.
It is thus understandable for pundits to project the harmonised elections as the ultimate begetter of a Second Republic in which the country is considered a “public matter” and not the private concern or property of the leaders.
However, none is blind to the fact that President Mnangagwa and MDC Alliance leader Mr Chamisa’s perspectives of a “Second Republic” emanate from different standpoints.
Mnangagwa’s reference to a Second Republic is intertwined with the vision that he has enunciated from day one of his inauguration. He has made it clear that his assumption of power represented a new dawn.
The new dawn goes beyond mere mantra as it is couched in a systematic and pragmatic structural reform framework.
In other words, Mnangagwa’s reference to a Second Republic brings clear awareness of the different circumstantial demands of a post-Mugabe era.
While conscious of the decolonising discourse, Mnangagwa believes the post-Mugabe era demands an appropriation of new operational tools to navigate the international arena while at the same striving to provide servant leadership that delivers economic prosperity to the people.
Mnangagwa believes that his leadership represents a complete departure from the old reign of Mugabe who despite doing some good ended up being a victim of history by being trapped in the decolonising discourse of scapegoating the former colonisers for all the country’s problems.
Since assuming power in November, Mnangagwa has fashioned himself as the purveyor of “real change” and a man willing to re-image the country’s foreign policy by focusing on re-engagement with the international community including erstwhile adversaries.
The period after Mugabe is thus regarded as a Second Republic in that it is a departure from the obsession with the “decolonising” discourse to a period of pragmatic economic revival with less emphasis on political grandstanding.
But Chamisa’s second republic appears to be the mere passing on of a relay baton.
It is defined by the quest for power for power’s sake. In his own words, Chamisa’s main concern is to win regardless of the skulduggery of the vote.
Chamisa’s second republic is defined by a simple transition from the old to a youthful leadership or what he calls a “generational consensus”.
Nowhere in history have republics been defined by the age of the contender.
It is enduring policies that reflect a complete departure from the old. Already, Chamisa has tacitly admitted forging a political alliance with Mugabe who represents the old First Republic and that in itself befuddles his envisaged “second republic”.
One key area that differentiates President Mnangagwa and Chamisa’s second republic is power devolution. Mnangagwa’s Government had already started working on constitutional provisions that devolve power to provincial levels.
This is in line with Section (2) of the country’s Constitution under which central government should cede more power to provincial councils in determining development priorities.
Under a devolved state, each province has its own development plan underpinned by resources found within that province.
Economic blueprints are crafted by provincial councils led by provincial ministers whose rule should also be development-oriented.
During his campaign, President Mnangagwa made it clear that economic development will be praxis of his government.
“We are now saying politics yes, but it should come after economics,” he told his supporters in Gwanda, Matabeleland South province.
“Devolution will require the surrendering of some amount of power to the provinces under provincial councils in terms of our Constitution, to give a province authority to manage the economy of that province and then the Provincial Minister’s role will now change. It will become an economic role.”
Besides his emphasis on economic development discourse, President Mnangagwa’s Second Republic will also be defined by opening up the democratic space — ensuring freedom of speech and association and holding central government to account for its promises.
Already the signals of a flourishing Second Republic have been apparent given the peace and tranquil that characterised the whole election period. It is a Second Republic that is defined by its strict adherence to the country’s constitution.
It is a republic hinged on participatory linkages between citizen and the State, where citizens take active roles as members of government advisory board, belonging to political organisations of their choice and having their representatives that articulate their aspirations.
ED’s Second Republic is premised on changing the country’s general political culture.
Political culture being a set of widely shared beliefs, values, and norms concerning the relationship of citizens to government and to one another.
There is no doubt that ED’s victory will usher in a Second Republic marked by democratic ideals of liberty, equality, justice and the rule of law.
This is more than a new dispensation.
It is something much broader.
And all Chamisa can do now is to take a detour and follow.
He is incapable of shepherding a real a second republic owing to his failure to articulate the national question beyond facile claims to a captured party audience.