Zimbabwe’s military unexpectedly ousted President Robert Mugabe in late 2017, nearly four decades after he took power. Debilitating internal factionalism within the ruling Zanu-PF party over succession to Mugabe has culminated in the elevation of Emmerson Mnangagwa to the helm. He has promised to break with the past as he endeavours to navigate a much needed economic recovery. Prospects for promoting a new more inclusive political culture are less certain. Credible elections in 2018 could be a vital stepping stone toward a peaceful democratic transition, but they also pose a challenge to Zimbabwe’s weak institutions. Through research and analysis, Crisis Group sheds light on obstacles to a smooth, credible electoral process leading up to 2018. We help relevant actors nationally and internationally to buttress the likelihood of peaceful elections and democratic transition.

CrisisWatch Zimbabwe

Unchanged Situation

Calls for postponement of upcoming general elections persisted, and authorities continued to criminalise dissent.

Controversy over constituency delimitation report cast doubt on 2023 vote. Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T) party leader Douglas Mwonzora (opposition) 3 April said electoral commission’s constituency delimitation report would produce “unfair and un-credible elections”; statement comes after MDC-T in March filed Constitutional Court application seeking postponement of general elections scheduled for summer. Local advocacy group Election Resource Centre 12 April said suspending elections would threaten country’s democracy, and constitution provides that old boundaries apply if new delimitation report is completed less than six months before elections or deemed unconstitutional. President Mnangagwa 19 April vowed to proclaim election date in late May. Ruling party Zanu-PF second secretary Kembo Mohadi 20 April said party had reached agreements with traditional leaders to secure votes. Main opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) deputy spokesperson Gift “Ostallos” Siziba few days later expressed concern about vote buying and exploitation of traditional leaders.

Opposition continued to face judicial harassment. Court 5 April sentenced CCC lawmaker and spokesperson, Fadzayi Mahere, to pay fine on charges of “communicating falsehoods”; however acquitted her of “promoting and inciting public violence”. NGO Amnesty International next day said sentence showed “escalating assault on freedom of expression”, 18 April lamented “rapidly shrinking civic space”, including criminalisation of dissent and targeting of political activists and human rights defenders. Mahere 26 April filed appeal. Court in Harare 28 April sentenced Transform Zimbabwe opposition party activist Jacob Ngarivhume to four years in prison (including one suspended) for “inciting public violence” in 2020.

Continue reading

Latest Updates

Subscribe to Crisis Group’s Email Updates

Receive the best source of conflict analysis right in your inbox.