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Zimbabwe

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

Deteriorated Situation

Imposition of new tax and extreme shortages of cash, food and fuel exacerbated widespread anger at govt following disputed and violent July polls. Opposition continued to contest results of July presidential and parliamentary elections as deepening economic crisis fuelled protests. EU observer mission 10 Oct released final report on July elections saying they “fell short of international standards” and electoral commission “lacked full independence”; next day, ruling ZANU-PF dismissed report as “script” of opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance. In attempt to address currency shortages and struggling economy, govt 1 Oct imposed 2% tax on electronic transactions. Collapse in value of bond notes and electronic bank balances led to spike in prices of goods such as fuel, food and medicine. Congress of Trade Unions 9 Oct called for protests against new tax in capital Harare, Mutare and Masvingo to be held 11 Oct. Police 11 Oct arrested dozens of would-be demonstrators, citing ban on public gatherings in capital Harare, imposed in Sept following cholera outbreak. Price rises triggered panic buying and shortages of fuel and basic goods. In response, govt 23 Oct lifted ban on import of basic goods and food. MDC leader Nelson Chamisa 23 Oct called for creation of national transitional govt to resolve political and economic crisis, calls which President Mnangagwa dismissed 25 Oct. Commission of Inquiry on post-election violence chaired by former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe began public hearings 16 Oct: opposition vowed not to take part claiming that commission comprised ZANU-PF supporters, protests disrupted hearings in Bulawayo 26 Oct.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

3 Aug 2018
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 Washington Post

Piers Pigou

Senior Consultant, Southern Africa
30 Jul 2018
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). Newsweek

Piers Pigou

Senior Consultant, Southern Africa
18 Jun 2018
Most [of Zimbabwe's presidential candidates] have minimal support bases and the election is likely to simply reinforce this reality. Twenty-three candidates is an unfeasible number of aspirants. For some candidates it is about principle and symbolism; for others it may well be little more than egotistical vanity project or something bordering in self-delusion. Bulawayo24 News

Piers Pigou

Senior Consultant, Southern Africa
21 Feb 2018
[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. Daily News

Piers Pigou

Senior Consultant, Southern Africa
15 Feb 2018
[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. VOA

Piers Pigou

Senior Consultant, Southern Africa
5 Feb 2018
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. Daily News

Piers Pigou

Senior Consultant, Southern Africa

Latest Updates

Commentary / Africa

Zimbabwe: An Opportunity for Reform?

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.

Commentary / Africa

Three Critical African Elections

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.

Commentary / Africa

Standoff in Zimbabwe as Struggle to Succeed Mugabe Deepens

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.

Commentary / Africa

Mugabe’s Brittle By-election Victory Bodes Ill for Zimbabwe’s 2018 Elections

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.