Charles Mabhena, Harare

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s soft power grab from Robert Mugabe left the old guard a bitter man, Mugabe alleges that his successor staged a ‘coup d’état’ against him and is therefore ruling the country illegally.

The 17 November 2017 event that brought Mnangagwa to power was followed by legitimacy protestations one of them at the Constitutional Court by political activist Linda Masarira. The Liberal Democrats‚ a political party formed in South Africa in 2015 and led by Masarira‚ argued that Mnangagwa rose to power through a coup.

“He is not the legitimate president; that’s why we filed our papers‚” Masarira reportedly said.

The other challenge was by the New Patriotic Front, a political party established by members of the G40, which last year petitioned the African Union and SADC disputing the legitimacy of President Mnangagwa who came into power following a military operation against former President Robert Mugabe.

In it’s argument‚ the party said the military intervention was a bloody coup.

But through a government gazette on November 25‚ the High Court ruled that the military intervention was within the military’s mandate and therefore legal.

“Actions by the Zimbabwe Defence Forces to stop the usurping of power by those close to former president Robert Mugabe are constitutional‚” read the judgement.

In the same context, National People’s Party leader Joice Mujuru is of the thought that Mnangagwa is an “illegitimate coup leader” whose power rests in the military.

Mnangagwa took power after Mugabe resigned following the military operation code named Operation Restore Legacy, but former Higher Education Minister Jonathan Moyo claims the veteran politician was arm-twisted by the military to resign, and that as such Mnangagwa should not be recognised by the international community.

Meanwhile, according to MDC Alliance principals Tendai Biti and Welshman Ncube, Mnangagwa is a legitimate leader.

Addressing the press sometime last year after returning from the USA, a trip much condemned by many as supposedly meant to invite economic sanctions against the new dispensation, the two are on record saying the alliance did not dispute that Mnangagwa was the legitimate leader of the country.

The two said the fact that Mnangagwa was appointed after ZANU PF forwarded his name to the Speaker of the National Assembly as its leader was consistent with the provisions of the Constitution.

However, they claimed Mnangagwa lacked political legitimacy on a technicality that he inherited former President Mugabe’s rule that was itself stained by legitimacy questions after the “stolen” previous elections.

“The issue of Mnangagwa’s leadership is legal formalism, but he lacks political legitimacy,” Ncube said then.

While Mnangagwa’s legitimacy for allegedly having had ascended to power clandestinely stirred legal battles, the same scenario is unfolding in the main opposition party the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) where Mnangagwa’s  main challenger in the forthcoming much anticipated polls, Nelson Chamisa, is involved in a similar bone of contention with Thokozani Khupe.

Chamisa is currently embroidered in a similar predicament of legitimacy against his former co-vice president of the MDC-T party, Khupe. The battle that has since saw two camps emerging and the expulsion of the latter and her faction.

The bone of contention is that Khupe who was elected at the party’s congress in 2014 believes she is the rightful heir to the throne, as opposed to Chamisa, who was hand-picked by the late MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai as one of his three vice-presidents.

Following the death of Tsvangirai who succumbed to colon cancer on 14 February this year, Chamisa was appointed acting president by the party’s national executive and national assembly.

Currently, the two are at loggerheads over party name and symbol, with Chamisa’s camp threatening to drag the expelled Khupe to court over the matter, with the latter’s faction declining to be intimidated vowing to stand its ground, maintaining that she (Khupe) remains the bona fide leader of the party.

According to a local daily, (Daily News), MDC-T acting spokesperson Morgen Komichi told the paper that his party would consider dragging Khupe to the court if she continues to use party name and symbol.

However, the other side’s spokesperson Obert Gutu reportedly rubbished the threats, saying; “Acting president Khupe is the rightful, legitimate and indeed constitutional acting president of the MDT-T until such time that an extraordinary is held to elect a new substantive president of the party.”

Be that as it may, the battle for supremacy between ‘the two power grabbers’ is in full swing. While Chamisa seems to be charming the electorate with the right code, as evidenced by bumper crowds at his rallies, President Mnangagwa is confident of romping to victory in the coming elections, despite the odds of high unemployment and the unyielding economy all stacked against him. It’s Game on.