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

Govt crackdown continued with mass evictions and discussion of law restricting civil society; relations with U.S. strained amid adjustment of sanctions. 

Repression continued including removals of those living on state-owned land. Govt kept up campaign to remove people living in “illegal” dwellings on state-owned land, with police arresting thousands of settlers since measures began mid-Jan, drawing opposition from civil society as well as some in ruling ZANU-PF party; criminal actors took advantage of situation, with local NGO 11 March reporting gang had attempted to violently enforce evictions in village with gold mining opportunities in Insiza district, Matabeleland South province, leading to clashes with villagers. Meanwhile, parliament 1 March began process to pass controversial Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill that critics argue will be used to control civil society organisations.

Washington lifted broad sanctions and imposed targeted ones. U.S. treasury 4 March removed broad program of sanctions, imposed new penalties against eleven people, including President Mnangagwa and his wife, and three companies for corruption and human rights abuses under Global Magnitsky measures; spokesperson for Mnangagwa – who became first sitting head of state to be sanctioned under program that blocks access to U.S. visas, property and services – 6 March condemned “illegal coercive measures”. In sign of worsening tensions, U.S. aid chief Samantha Power 8 March decried “unacceptable” intimidation following alleged Feb harassment, detainment and deportation of U.S. aid staff in capital Harare; govt accused workers of interfering and violating sovereignty.

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