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

Violent attacks on political leaders persisted, while recalls of some opposition MPs continued to fuel tensions.

Political violence targeted opposition, causing outrage. Gunmen 1 Nov abducted Takudzwa Ngadziore, MP from main opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) in capital Harare, with legislator tortured and released later that day. Body of CCC activist Tapfumaneyi Masaya found 13 Nov, days after armed men abducted him in Harare; Masaya was campaigning for CCC candidate in parliamentary by-election scheduled for 9 Dec. U.S. embassy 14 Nov called for full investigation and end to political violence, while UN human rights office 17 Nov urged authorities to keep their pledge to investigate Masaya’s killing, hold perpetrators accountable in fair trials. High Court 28 Nov overturned lower court’s conviction of Job Sikhala, CCC deputy chairman, for obstructing justice; Sikhala, however, remained behind bars facing other charges.

Confusion over recalls of opposition MPs continued to fuel tensions. Political tensions ran high ahead of 9 Dec by-elections for several parliamentary seats won by CCC candidates in Aug elections; re-runs come after self-proclaimed secretary-general of CCC, Sengezo Tshabangu, in Oct recalled 15 members of National Assembly, claiming they were no longer party members, and High Court 4 Nov dismissed affected lawmakers’ request to be reinstated. Confusion persisted as Tshabangu 14 Nov recalled another 13 National Assembly members, with CCC lawyers saying new recalls contradict High Court order issued earlier same day temporarily blocking him from doing so. CCC throughout month continued to accuse ruling ZANU-PF party of orchestrating recalls.

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