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.
For years, South Africa trusted in behind-the-scenes contacts to alleviate Zimbabwe’s political and economic problems. But those troubles have continued to mount. By stepping up pressure, and by working with Washington on reform guidelines, Pretoria can help Harare find a way out of its crisis.
Govt continued to harass opposition and civil society, and infighting between main opposition party factions reached new heights. In capital Harare, authorities 5 March arrested three female members of Nelson Chamisa-led faction (MDC-A) of main opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) for third time in less than a year on charges of breaching COVID-19 regulations; one granted bail 10 March. In second largest city Bulawayo, security forces 10 March arrested nine members of opposition Mthwakazi Republic Party who were protesting police raid on home of party leader Mqondiso Moyo previous night. In Raffingora town, authorities 27 March arrested three MDC-A members for allegedly violating COVID-19 regulations; court 29 March granted them bail. After Chamisa 12 March accused President Mnangagwa of “rising authoritarianism”, ruling party ZANU-PF next day said Chamisa was making “veiled attempts to unseat a constitutionally elected government”. ZANU-PF 24 March removed its political commissar Victor Matemadanda over alleged mishandling of district coordinating committee elections in Dec 2020 and “reckless” remarks after Matemadanda said ZANU-PF was responsible for crippling MDC-A. Meanwhile, infighting between two competing factions of opposition MDC party intensified. Parliament 17 March expelled six MDC-A MPs, including MDC-A VP Tendai Biti, after competing faction of MDC claimed they no longer belonged to party; move came after High Court 11 March ruled that joining MDC-A translated to “self-expulsion” from party. U.S. 23 March said it is following events “closely” and accused ZANU-PF of “misusing the levers of government to silence critics and entrench its political power”. U.S. 3 March renewed sanctions against Mnangagwa and other top officials for one year, citing security services’ violent repression of citizens throughout 2020 and lack of reforms needed “to ensure the rule of law, democratic governance and the protection of human rights”. VP Kembo Mohadi 1 March resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
In 2019, killings by machete-wielding gangs at Zimbabwe’s gold mines jogged the government into preventive action. But police sweeps alone cannot make the sector safe. Harare should adopt reforms that allow more citizens to mine legally and head off disputes over the country’s mineral wealth.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has the chance to embark on a much-needed process of economic and governance reform in Zimbabwe. The military’s role in the political transition casts a shadow on the road to credible elections, which remain a priority if his government is to earn national and international legitimacy.
Zimbabwe has not escaped its chronic crisis. Infighting over who will succeed the ailing 92-year-old President Robert Mugabe is stifling efforts to tackle insolvency, low rule of law, rampant unemployment and food insecurity. Zimbabwe needs international help to recover, but what it needs most is a leadership willing to act on much-needed reforms.
Zimbabwe’s growing instability is exacerbated by dire economic decline, endemic governance failures, and tensions over ruling party succession; without major political and economic reforms, the country could slide into being a failed state.
A return to protracted political crisis, and possibly extensive violence, is likely as Zimbabwe holds elections on 31 July. conditions for a free and fair vote do not exist.
Zanu PF is hunkered down in its traditional deny, avoid, blame, attack posture.
Prominent Zimbabwean journalist Chin'ono has been extremely active in exposing corruption, but with that exposure has come a very hard-hitting narrative about the failures of President Mnangagwa’s administration.
[Zimbabwe's] reform agenda is being opposed by hardline elements within Zanu-PF and the state.
Ordinary Zimbabweans are paying for the excesses of a venal predatory elite not being held to account.
The ball is in Mnangagwa’s court. His legitimacy will now have to come from statesmanship and transparency, which means publicly addressing his relationship with the security forces as well as concerns about how the votes were counted
The elections are an unprecedented opportunity for Zimbabweans to choose who they believe can deliver economic recovery after decades of violent, predatory and authoritarian rule by former President Robert Mugabe and the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF).
On 30 July Zimbabwe will hold elections. For the first time since independence Robert Mugabe is not a candidate. His successor presents himself as a reformer – but many doubt the polls will be clean. The opposition warns that Zimbabweans will not tolerate another stolen election.
A new presidential administration in Zimbabwe offers an opportunity for much-needed democratic and economic reform after years of stagnation. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2018, Crisis Group proposes four key areas on which the EU and its member states should focus its support: the security sector, elections, the economy and national reconciliation.
Delayed elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the stalled transition risks provoking a major crisis, are one of three critical African polls: the DRC crisis, the recent vote in Kenya and Zimbabwe’s election next year all have important implications for democracy and stability on the continent.
Zimbabwe’s military has detained the country’s 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe and his wife, Grace Mugabe, and taken control of the streets of the capital and the main television station. The next step – apparently, a legitimate-looking transfer of power to someone of the army’s choosing – may prove less easy.