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.
Zimbabwe will hold elections on 23 August. As with past votes, the playing field is skewed in favour of the ruling party ZANU-PF. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Nicolas Delaunay lays out the stakes and assesses the risks of violence.
Opposition continued to call for re-run of August elections, while controversy over fake letters recalling some MPs fuelled political tensions.
Opposition continued to dismiss Aug general elections as fraudulent. Main opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) 2 Oct called for new elections under international supervision, with “independent and professional” body in place of current electoral commission. Police 16 Oct banned CCC protest march in Bulawayo city. In response, CCC 18 Oct said it is “fundamental constitutional right” of citizens to protest election outcome, and warned that “when all has failed”, citizens might “take matter into [their] own hands”; also said party leader Nelson Chamisa had been mandated to pursue dialogue with President Mnangagwa to find way out of crisis. During extraordinary summit of Southern African Development Community, Angolan President Lourenço 31 Oct congratulated Mnangagwa for “exemplary” elections.
Controversy over fake letters fuelled tensions. Sengezo Tshabangu, claiming to be interim Sec Gen of CCC, early Oct recalled 15 MPs, saying they had ceased to belong to party. Chamisa immediately dismissed individual as ruling party puppet, but Parliament Speaker Jacob Mudenda declared seats vacant. Riot police 10 Oct intervened as CCC MPs protested in parliament, and Mudenda suspended all CCC MPs for six parliamentary sittings. Self-proclaimed CCC Sec Gen 10 Oct also said Chamisa had been expelled from CCC, which party denied. CCC 25 Oct said it would boycott by-elections for 15 vacated seats scheduled for 9 Dec.
In another important development. Mnangagwa 20 Oct named Lt Gen Anselem Sanyatwe, under U.S. sanctions for allegedly leading post-2018 election crackdown, as army commander, and 28 Oct appointed defence forces commander Gen Phillip Valerio Sibanda to ZANU-PF politburo; civil society activists including journalist Hopewell Chin’ono immediately decried move as unconstitutional.
For years, South Africa trusted in behind-the-scenes contacts to alleviate Zimbabwe’s political and economic problems. But those troubles have continued to mount. By stepping up pressure, and by working with Washington on reform guidelines, Pretoria can help Harare find a way out of its crisis.
In 2019, killings by machete-wielding gangs at Zimbabwe’s gold mines jogged the government into preventive action. But police sweeps alone cannot make the sector safe. Harare should adopt reforms that allow more citizens to mine legally and head off disputes over the country’s mineral wealth.
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.
Zimbabwe’s disputed elections have reinforced political divisions as the Constitutional Court hears an opposition challenge of the results. The military crackdown on opposition protesters highlights the urgency of reform if the government is to preserve stability and, by extension, its re-engagement strategy with international donors.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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