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.
Crisis Group’s early-warning Watch List identifies up to ten countries and regions at risk of conflict or escalation of violence. In these situations, early action, driven or supported by the EU and its member states, would generate stronger prospects for peace. It includes a global overview, regional summaries, and detailed analysis on select countries and conflicts.
The Watch List 2018 includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh/Myanmar, Cameroon, Colombia, Egypt, Iraq, Sahel, Tunisia, Ukraine and Zimbabwe.
Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of opposition party Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T) died of cancer 14 Feb aged 65. MDC-T national executive council next day chose Nelson Chamisa, one of three party vice presidents, to be acting president for twelve months; other vice presidents challenging Chamisa’s leadership, Thokozani Khupe and Elias Mudzuri, did not attend meeting. MDC-T consultative meeting 23 Feb chose Chamisa, former leader of MDC-T youth wing, as presidential candidate in 2018 elections, other senior leaders criticised Chamisa for unconstitutional power grab. MDC-T youth militia known as “Order of the Vanguard”, allegedly Chamisa supporters, assaulted MDC-T leaders at Tsvangirai’s funeral 20 Feb. After policemen shot dead three people in Harare 22 Feb, they used teargas to disperse crowds of protestors who set fire to vehicles. Police arrested 61 students and used teargas and water cannon to disperse protestors at Bulawayo’s National University of Science and Technology 26 Feb.
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.
The pervasive fear of violence and intimidation in Zimbabwe’s 2013 elections contradicts political leaders’ rhetorical commitments to peace, and raises concerns that the country may not be ready to go to the polls.
A bold approach to the sanctions issue is necessary to refocus efforts on the actions needed to break the political stalemate in Zimbabwe before elections are held that otherwise threaten to be as violent and undemocratic as the 2008 round.
[Zimbabwe's] MDC [opposition party] needs enigmatic leadership that can inspire, lead and build a party that faces huge organisational and leadership challenges. No single leader can achieve this alone.
[Zimbabwe's veteran opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai's] passing is of terrible sadness but represents enormous challenge to the new cadre of leadership in the opposition.
It seems highly unlikely that [former President] Mugabe would risk jeopardizing the handsome golden parachute he has been given by teaming up with Joice Mujuru.
If conditions [in Zimbabwe] were genuinely free and fair, and if there were clear and credible political alternatives on the table, economic conditions would play a major role in voters' political calculations.
[Zimbabwe's President Mnangagwa] visiting [MDC party leader] Tsvangirai reflects a level of respect and political maturity rarely afforded by an opposition figure.
[The] deployment of serving senior military officers removes the last pretence of non-military bias in Zimbabwe's politics. This is vintage wine in a camouflage decanter.
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.
President Robert Mugabe plunged Zimbabwe into political crisis by firing his long-time ally and enforcer Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa on 6 November 2017. In this Q&A prior to an apparent army coup in Mnangagwa's favour on 14-15 November, Crisis Group’s Senior Southern Africa Consultant Piers Pigou gives the background to the struggle to succeed the 93-year-old president.
The ruling ZANU-PF is exploiting the many weaknesses of Zimbabwe’s electoral system to outpace the country’s divided opposition. Yet without a real change of policy, the country seems doomed to steeper decline.
Originally published in Zimbabwe Independent
Abductions, assaults by pro-government thugs and anti-government demonstrations met by tear gas and water cannon all signal rising levels of violence in Zimbabwe. The situation is aggravated by the government’s failure to implement proposals for reform and mounting economic woes.