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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

Amid deepening economic crisis, govt cracked down on protests against corruption and inflation while attacks and abductions of opposition members and activists increased. Govt 15 Aug banned demonstration that main opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had called for next day in capital Harare to protest against corruption, unemployment, shortages of power and fuel and inflation. High Court 16 Aug rejected MDC’s appeal against ban. Amid confusion over whether MDC had cancelled demonstration, police reportedly assaulted and fired water cannon at MDC supporters in streets and arrested at least 80, drawing widespread international condemnation. Govt 18 Aug banned MDC protest planned for next day in Bulawayo, and 19 Aug deployed hundreds of police and soldiers to enforce ban. Police 22 Aug arrested MDC National Organising Secretary Amos Chibaya for failing to stop 16 Aug protest; court 26 Aug released him on bail. Attacks on activists and opposition members increased with nineteen abductions recorded in Aug. Notably, unidentified attackers 13 Aug assaulted and held overnight rights activist Tatenda Mombeyarara in Chitungwiza and separately MDC member Blessing Kanotunga in Mufakose, and 21 Aug assaulted and held overnight political satirist Samantha Kureya in Harare. Govt 25 Aug denied involvement. Police 23 Aug arrested eight teachers’ union officials protesting in Harare for higher pay, their lawyer, and journalist filming arrest; court released them on bail next day. Court 21 Aug charged former VP Mphoko with abuse of office, released him on bail same day. Amid economic deterioration, govt 23 Aug offered to raise public sector wages by 76%, confederation of unions, Civil Service APEX Council, 28 Aug accepted rise after initially rejecting it. Tanzanian President Magufuli, current chairman of regional bloc Southern African Development Community, 18 Aug called on U.S. and EU to lift sanctions on Zimbabwe. U.S. 1 Aug placed retired Major General Anselem Sanyatwe, now ambassador to Tanzania, on sanctions list for his role as commander of security unit that shot civilians in Harare in Aug 2018.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

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
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

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

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.

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.