According to Zimbabwe’s Constitution, starting from the 2023 election, Presidential candidates will be required to identify running mates, who then serve as their Vice President for their term. Should the President die or cease holding office, the Vice President who last acted as President takes over as President until the end of the President’s term.
One of the effects of the recently proposed Constitutional amendments will be to change this clause so that the President, once elected, appoints up to two Vice Presidents. Should the President die, the VP who last acted as President takes over until the President’s party appoints a successor. This means that the public does not have any say or knowledge in who their Vice Presidents will be, and gives the President’s party power to potentially appoint someone who could serve as Zimbabwe’s president, without Zimbabweans having any vote on this.
Legislation watchdog Veritas has warned that this amendment, which takes Zimbabwe back to what we had before 2013, risks increasing factionalism, and undermines the democratic legitimacy of a Vice President who might become President without having been in any election.
In an interview with Petina Gappah about the amendments, constitutional lawyer David Hofisi said “None of the major parties know how to effectively deal with succession. It undermines the personality cults built around their leaders and causes disaffection and further fragmentation. I would hazard to say there is a bipartisan consensus to avoid the disruptive consequences of naming a clear successor.”
And elections oversight body ZESN has described this move as retrogressive, noting that part of the motivation for the running mate clause was to give Zimbabweans predictability and stability in leadership transition by formalising the selection of Vice Presidents within political parties.