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Zimbabwe

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

Deteriorated Situation

President Mugabe ousted in military coup 15 Nov and replaced by former VP Mnangagwa. Mugabe early Nov expelled from ruling party ZANU-PF senior officials, including Mnangagwa for “traits of disloyalty”, widely seen as attempt to pave way for wife Grace Mugabe to accede to presidency. After his expulsion, Mnangagwa 8 Nov said he had fled to South Africa due to death threats. Army chief Constantino Chiwenga 13 Nov condemned Mnangagwa’s removal and indicated military would step in if sackings did not stop. After tanks seen moving toward capital Harare 14 Nov, army units seized city 15 Nov in operation which army spokesman said in televised address targeted “criminals” around president; South African President Zuma same day said Mugabe was “confined to his home”. Influential War Veterans Association 18 Nov held anti-Mugabe rally in Harare and protesters demanded his resignation. ZANU-PF Central Committee 19 Nov replaced Mugabe with Mnangagwa as party leader, expelled Grace Mugabe and twenty senior members, and gave Mugabe till noon on 20 Nov to resign from presidency or face impeachment. Later that day Mugabe said he would preside over next ZANU-PF congress in Dec. During impeachment proceedings 21 Nov Mugabe resigned as president, reportedly in return for multi-million dollar pay-off and immunity. Mnangagwa sworn in as president 24 Nov promising reforms, protection of property rights and foreign investments, and compensation for dispossessed farmers. He was silent on electoral reform, but pledged to hold elections next year as planned. High Court same day ruled military intervention “constitutionally permissible” and annulled Mnangagwa’s sacking. Court 25 Nov charged with corruption Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo, initially detained 15 Nov and reportedly hospitalised 24 Nov after a week held incommunicado in military custody. Having been withdrawn by army, police 27 Nov resumed work in joint patrols with army. Mnangagwa 28 Nov announced three-month amnesty for return of public funds “illegally” held abroad.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

14 Dec 2017
Borrowing more may well provide some short term relief [for Zimbabwe], but it is important to see how this contributes to the long term solution as the country digs an even bigger debt hole. Daily News

Piers Pigou

Senior Consultant, Southern Africa
1 Dec 2017
[Zimbabwe's new cabinet including controversial figures ] does not bode well, certainly. We will have to wait and see what the [new ministers] actually do but it does not bode well. The Guardian

Piers Pigou

Senior Consultant, Southern Africa
1 Dec 2017
The deployment of senior members of the [Zimbabwean] military into the cabinet is profoundly shocking. [It] does not reflect the [inclusivity] sentiment expressed in [the] inaugural address. AFP

Piers Pigou

Senior Consultant, Southern Africa
1 Dec 2017
There has been a distinct impression that [Zimbabwe's new President] Mnangagwa is beholden and the power behind the throne is [the army chief] Gen Chiwenga. Financial Times

Piers Pigou

Senior Consultant, Southern Africa
30 Nov 2017
[Zimbabwe's new president] Mnangagwa is silent on the issue of electoral reform. It's worth bearing in mind that the way elections are run in Zimbabwe is about keeping most eligible potential voters out of the process. African News Agency

Piers Pigou

Senior Consultant, Southern Africa
27 Nov 2017
[Zimbabwe’s ousting of President Robert Mugabe represents] a military-assisted transition. This sets a bad precedent in terms of deepening democracy and pluralism in the region. Financial Times

Piers Pigou

Senior Consultant, Southern Africa

Latest Updates

Commentary / Africa

Mugabe’s Brittle By-election Victory Bodes Ill for Zimbabwe’s 2018 Elections

The ruling ZANU-PF is exploiting the many weaknesses of Zimbabwe’s electoral system to outpace the country’s divided opposition. Yet without a real change of policy, the country seems doomed to steeper decline.

Op-Ed / Africa

Zimbabwe Deep in Limbo

Political infighting and a collapsed economy offer little light at the end of tunnel for the majority of Zimbabweans.

Originally published in Independent Online (South Africa)

Briefing / Africa

Zimbabwe: Stranded in Stasis

Zimbabwe has not escaped its chronic crisis. Infighting over who will succeed the ailing 92-year-old President Robert Mugabe is stifling efforts to tackle insolvency, low rule of law, rampant unemployment and food insecurity. Zimbabwe needs international help to recover, but what it needs most is a leadership willing to act on much-needed reforms.