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 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.
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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