"President, Head of State and Government, Commander-in-Chief of Defence Forces"
You have been fed half-baked reports on the presidential title and its genesis. It is all about "Executive Authority." Mugabe, seen here with Happyton Bonyongwe, Head of the Central Intelligence Organisation and Commander of the Defence Forces General Constantine Chiwengwa, has retained all his powers and is simply rubbing salt into the MDC wounds. It did not start last month as most Zimbabwean media will have you believe!
Harare, Zimbabwe, 07 September 2009
Since I was the first person to alert you to the fact that the State media had started using the titles above every time they referred to Mugabe, you have read all sorts of half-baked reasoning for the move.
Certainly I have. And all that these sources say is: "they have been instructed."
But I have followed this development closely from its gestation to fulfilment and I thought I would recap just how exactly this came about. So here goes.
First of all, there came reports in the state media that the MDC was trying to undermine the status and position of "The Solution" - Robert Mugabe.
It was reported that the Prime Minister had submitted a paper to cabinet saying, amongst other things, that it was not proper to call Mugabe the Head of State and Government (back then, barely a month ago, the state media still referred to Mugabe only as Head of State and Government).
The Prime Minister, the Herald reported, had said in his submission that Mugabe should be called only President Mugabe or simply His Excellency, the President.
Tsvangirai clarified this the very next day, saying that what the Herald was referring to was only a position paper, which was not even authored by him but by Tendai Biti. The background, explained Tsvangirai, was that three ministers from each of the parties to the Inclusive Government were asked for their thoughts and the like on how "issues" in the Inclusive Government could be addressed to enhance smoother operations.
Tsvangirai also explained that the Tendai Biti's paper calling for Mugabe to be called only President or His Excellency was not even a Cabinet issue but was something he (Tsvangirai) initiated in the Council of Ministers, which he chairs (Mugabe chairs Cabinet).
So, said the Prime Minister, it was incorrect to say that he had proposed this to cabinet.
But clearly, the MDC had exposed to ZANU PF that the reference to Mugabe back then as Head of State and Government was something that bothered them, or at least bothered Tendai Biti.
The Prime Minister did not deny the existence of the document, only that its context had been misrepresented by the State media.
However, having exposed that they were bothered by the Head of State and Government reference, the MDC had exposed its underbelly to ZANU PF, so to speak.
It was then that it was decided to play up the very issue ZANU PF now knew bothered MDC-T. In the local Shona language, it is known as kusvotesa.
It was three days after this exchange in the state media that the Herald and State Television then added "Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces" to the titles they had already been giving Mugabe.
Further to this, it is also perhaps opportune to explain that the reference to Mugabe as Head of State and Government also started in April this year, two months after Tsvangirai became president and it was also designed to "twist the knife" in the MDC.
There had been a dispute (which is still going on) between Mugabe and Tsvangirai about who exactly held Executive Authority in the government.
The GPA says Mugabe has Executive Authority and it specifically says this authority is derived "from the Constitution".
During the negotiations, the MDC negotiators were angling to have Mugabe and Tsvangirai as equals in a new government (something still being claimed today by people like Deputy Prime Minister Khupe, despite all evidence to the contrary). So, Tsvangirai's negotiators also got in the following phrase into the Agreement:
The Prime Minister shall also have executive authority.
At the time the agreement was released, before even this government was formed, I did an article on this very blog explaining that this phrasing was going to be the reason for friction in the unity government. That article, which is still here on this blog, was entitled "The Reason for The Tsvangirai/Mugabe Clash To Come"
And come it did.
I explained that the Agreement made it clear where Mugabe got his "executive authority" - the Constitution we have now.
But for the Prime Minister, as I asked back then: "Executive Authority over whom. Over What?"
As always, many thought I was just being anti-Tsvangirai when I explained that, legally and any way you look at it, Tsvangirai would only have the Executive Authority that Mugabe decided to give him.
Our Constitution has no room for a Prime Minister, except in the 19th Amendment. And that Amendment only says Tsvangirai "shall also have executive authority" without assigning him any.
So, as I pointed out back then, Mugabe was legally and constitutionally left with all his dictatorial powers intact by the inept negotiating skills of the MDC.
They realised this two months after the government was formed when Mugabe started exercising that authority.
Tsvangirai tried to renegotiate, only to have Mugabe point him to the Constitution as the source of his powers, while asking Tsvangirai where his powers came from.
Tsvangirai pointed to the GPA, which Mugabe countered by saying the country is not governed by the GPA, but by the Constitution. This is why they called in the negotiators barely a month after they formed the government.
Again, Mugabe has pointed out to Tsvangirai that, everywhere in the world where there is a "coalition" as Tsvangirai prefers to call this agreement, the Coalition Agreement between parties does not replace the Constitution of the country, but has to work within the confines of the said Constitution.
Tsvangirai still disagrees, and says "everyone in this government derives their authority from the GPA"
All legal experts, including some of the best international legal and Constitutional lawyers in the world, disagree with him.That is the legal position.
Morally though, as I have pointed out before, Mugabe would and should have shared this executive authority with Tsvangirai to show good faith. It would have been because he wanted to show good faith and was genuine, not because he had no choice.
Anyway, it was after that first dispute over "executive authority" that the state media started addressing Mugabe as "Head of State and Government".
The longer title came only recently, as a reaction to Biti's "white paper" suggesting that Mugabe should not be called Head of State and Government, but just "President" and "His Excellency.
So, next time to you read half-baked "analysts" telling you that the media "has been ordered to call Mugabe Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces, remember that they were not ordered to do this only last month, when they started using the longer title.
This fight goes back to March and Mugabe was called Head of State and Government way back then in order to "put Tsvangirai in his place and show him that he holds no Executive Authority."
I hope this helps.