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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

Unchanged Situation

Authorities continued to intimidate and threaten opposition and civil society. In reference to Harare provincial authorities’ directive, issued in July, requiring NGOs to submit workplans or cease operations, ruling party ZANU-PF Secretary for Administration Obert Mpofu 4 Aug backed “blitz” on NGOs, saying sector aims at “demonising” govt; High Court 13 Aug reserved judgement in case challenging directive. As govt pushes for controversial Patriotic Bill which seeks to criminalise support for U.S. sanctions on Zimbabwe, National Security Minister Owen Ncube mid-Aug said parliament would soon punish “misguided elements who campaign for sanctions and punishment…under the guise of human rights narrative”. Cabinet 31 Aug approved changes to law governing private voluntary organisations, notably prohibiting them from getting involved in politics, citing need to curb money laundering and financing of terrorism. Nelson Chamisa led-faction (MDC-A) of main opposition party 15 Aug congratulated Zambian president-elect, opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, for winning 12 Aug election, praised “triumph for democracy in light of growing authoritarian consolidation” in region; Chamisa next day expressed hope that Zambia’s transition of power would “inspire” Zimbabwe ahead of 2023 general elections. In response, ruling ZANU-PF party days later accused MDC-A of “cardinal political immaturity”. President Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba 18 Aug said military would not allow Chamisa to “just rule”, suggesting ZANU-PF would not peacefully hand over power if electorally defeated. Meanwhile, govt 21 Aug said it will open talks about compensation for victims of Gukurahundi massacres in 1980s, during which security forces killed some 20,000 people, mostly ethnic Ndebele, as part of violent crackdown in Matabeleland region.
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Reports & Briefings

In The News

19 Sep 2020
Zanu PF is hunkered down in its traditional deny, avoid, blame, attack posture. The Zimbabwe Independent

Piers Pigou

Senior Consultant, Southern Africa
25 Jul 2020
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. Al Jazeera

Piers Pigou

Senior Consultant, Southern Africa
29 Jan 2019
[Zimbabwe's] reform agenda is being opposed by hardline elements within Zanu-PF and the state. Bloomberg

Piers Pigou

Senior Consultant, Southern Africa
21 Nov 2018
Ordinary Zimbabweans are paying for the excesses of a venal predatory elite not being held to account. Washington Post

Piers Pigou

Senior Consultant, Southern Africa
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

Latest Updates

Q&A / Africa

Tensions Rise Ahead of Zimbabwe’s Elections

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.

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.

Briefing / Africa

Zimbabwe’s “Military-assisted Transition” and Prospects for Recovery

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.

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

Zimbabwe’s Very Peculiar Coup

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.