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.
The Zimbabwean government’s decision to hike fuel prices has sparked fierce opposition. In this Q&A, Crisis Group’s Senior Consultant Piers Pigou explains how economic hardship is driving ordinary citizens to unprecedented acts of resistance.
President Mnangagwa stepped up hostile rhetoric against opposition and civil society as crackdown on dissent continued unbated. After security forces forcefully thwarted planned anti-govt protest in capital Harare 31 July, Mnangagwa in national address 4 Aug condemned “machinations” of “terrorist opposition groupings” backed by “foreign detractors”, and threatened to “flush out … bad apples”. South African President Ramaphosa 6 Aug appointed two special envoys to Zimbabwe to “engage” parties and “identify possible ways in which South Africa can assist Zimbabwe”; special envoys 10 Aug met Mnangagwa in Harare, same day cancelled meeting with Nelson Chamisa’s faction of main opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-A), reportedly at govt’s request. MDC-A 10 Aug said at least 30 senior party figures had fled their homes since thwarted protest, citing “fears of being abducted, tortured or detained” by police. Zimbabwe’s Catholic bishops 16 Aug condemned govt’s corruption and human rights abuses; govt immediately denounced “evil message” intended to stoke “genocide”. MDC-A next day called on regional bloc Southern African Development Community to “urgently intervene” to resolve “governance and legitimacy crisis”. Courts denied bail to prominent investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono 6 and 24 Aug, and to opposition leader Jacob Ngarivhume 21 Aug, both arrested ahead of protest on charges of inciting violence; court 18 Aug barred prominent human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa from further representing Chin’ono and called for lawyer to be charged with contempt of court over accusations that she commented on court case. Police 21 Aug arrested MDC-A vice-chairman and MP Job Sikhala, who went into hiding late July, on accusations of inciting violence. In joint statement, seven countries including U.S., UK and Germany 28 Aug warned govt against using COVID-19 to crack down on dissent, expressed concern over deteriorating political, economic and health situation. U.S. 5 Aug imposed financial sanctions on prominent businessman and Mnangagwa ally Kudakwashe Regimond Tagwirei and his energy company over corruption allegations.
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.
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).
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.
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.