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

Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa left Citizens Coalition for Change, claiming party had been hijacked by ruling ZANU-PF; economic climate drove migration. 

Widening rift between rival factions of main opposition party led to its implosion. Self-proclaimed secretary-general of main opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), Sengezo Tshabangu – who triggered series of by-elections by recalling CCC elected officials – 15 Jan announced interim party leadership structure, challenging CCC president Nelson Chamisa’s hold on party. High Court 19 Jan ruled recalled CCC MPs and municipal councillors could not be candidates in next by-elections for six parliamentary seats due to be held 3 Feb. Chamisa 22 Jan accused unnamed members of CCC of “selling out”, and 25 Jan announced leaving “hijacked” party, reiterating Tshabangu’s rise is part of ploy by ruling party ZANU-PF party to infiltrate and divide CCC, and ultimately regain two-thirds majority in parliament. Meanwhile, court 30 Jan gave former opposition MP Job Sikhala two-year suspended sentence for allegedly inciting violence, but released him on bail after almost 600 days in pre-trial detention.

Gloomy economic outlook drove migration. Hike in passport application fees, effective 1 Jan, sparked rush for passports with long queues reported late Dec outside Harare’s passport office. Govt’s move is part of attempt to stem surge in migration amid lack of formal jobs and low prospects of economic recovery; govt data from 2022 reported 900,000 Zimbabwean emigrants, though number likely an undercount. 

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