July 22, 2018
HARARE, ZIMBABWE — Lovemore Madhuku is far from confident that he’ll win Zimbabwe’s presidential election. But his candidacy will serve other purposes, he says.
“We are in the election to add different voices to other political parties,” he says.
That diversity builds democracy, he says.
Madhuku has long proclaimed that Zimbabwe lacks democratic process. A constitutional lawyer and law professor at the University of Zimbabwe, he leads the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), which was formed from a civic movement in 1997 to push for a new constitution. When the Constitution was released in 2013, he says, the NCA considered it to have been fraudulently approved. It didn’t reflect the values of ordinary Zimbabweans, he says.
“They simply followed the dictates of the leading political party,” Madhuku says.
At 51 years old, he’s a young candidate for the nation’s top office, but his experience is more rooted in Zimbabwe than are the experiences of some other candidates who have lived abroad for significant portions of their adult lives. Madhuku graduated from the University of Zimbabwe, then attended the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. According to a biography published when Madhuku won the 2004 Civil Courage Prize, given by the Train Foundation, Madhuku was beaten and jailed in Zimbabwe during demonstrations for constitutional reform.
The NCA is now a political party, and Madhuku takes its grassroots values as his platform.
“We knew we could not remain a civic movement, as we would continue to be undermined by the parties,” he says.
Madhuku’s fighting spirit is evident in other areas of his life, too. In April, local news reports stated that he filed a case with Zimbabwe’s High Court to push for a job as the University of Zimbabwe’s law school dean – a role for which he’d been passed over. It’s not clear whether or when that case will be decided.
Madhuku doesn’t have widespread confidence among his colleagues.
“I don’t see his chances as a political somebody,” says Lawrence Mhandara, a political science lecturer at the university. “In the elections, he might not even place in the top 20.”
Even his supporters question whether he’s the right fit.
Madhuku is a fighter who would keep people “in line,” says Zvinoera Chabudapasi, the head of operations at the cellular network operator NetOne. Madhuku would challenge and defend the Constitution, as he has for many years, he adds.
But that’s not enough to be president, Chabudapasi says.
“Madhuku lacks the personality and aesthetics associated with the role,” he says.
Madhuku acknowledges that this year might not be his time.
“We are using the elections to establish ourselves as a political party and then use the next five years between 2018 and 2023 to become much more well-known,” he says.
From there, he says, he has every expectation of winning big in 2023 – the year of the next mandated presidential contest.