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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

Political divides deepened after Constitutional Court dismissed opposition’s challenge to results of 30 July presidential vote, confirming President Mnangagwa’s victory, and military crackdown on opposition protesters left six dead. Electoral commission 1 Aug announced results of parliamentary vote, with ruling ZANU-PF winning 144 seats (over two thirds) and opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance winning 64, but postponed releasing presidential results. EU observers said delay undermined credibility of results. After MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa said he had won “the popular vote”, opposition supporters protested in capital Harare 1 Aug accusing ZANU-PF of rigging elections. Riot police gave way to soldiers who forcibly dispersed protesters with water cannon and live ammunition, six protesters killed. Police 2 Aug sealed off MDC Alliance headquarters before storming building and arresting sixteen people. Human rights organisations reported over 150 incidents of alleged abuses by security forces against opposition supporters, including illegal detention, assault, looting and rape. Electoral commission 3 Aug announced Mnangagwa winner of presidential poll with 2.46mn votes (50.8%) against Chamisa’s 2.15mn (44.3%), after MDC Alliance said it would reject result. Electoral commission later revised Mnangagwa’s score to 50.6%, about 31,000 votes over 50% threshold to avoid second round. Chamisa 3 Aug said he would challenge through legal process presidential result and parliamentary results in twenty constituencies. Police 8 Aug arrested opposition politician Tendai Biti at border with Zambia as he tried to seek asylum there; Zambian police deported him, ignoring Zambian high court interdiction. Biti charged next day with public violence and illegally announcing election results. EU, U.S., Canada and Switzerland in joint statement 7 Aug expressed concern with post-election violence and intimidation of opposition supporters. Chamisa 10 Aug filed legal challenge against Mnangagwa’s victory, accusing electoral commission of bias and fraud. Court 22 Aug dismissed challenge, ruled Chamisa would have to pay ZNU-PF legal costs and validated Mnangagwa’s victory. Mnangagwa 29 Aug said former South African President Kgalema Motlante would chair inquiry into events of 1 Aug.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

3 Aug 2018
The ball is in Mnangagwa’s court. His legitimacy will now have to come from statesmanship and transparency, which means publicly addressing his relationship with the security forces as well as concerns about how the votes were counted Washington Post

Piers Pigou

Senior Consultant, Southern Africa
30 Jul 2018
The elections are an unprecedented opportunity for Zimbabweans to choose who they believe can deliver economic recovery after decades of violent, predatory and authoritarian rule by former President Robert Mugabe and the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF). Newsweek

Piers Pigou

Senior Consultant, Southern Africa
18 Jun 2018
Most [of Zimbabwe's presidential candidates] have minimal support bases and the election is likely to simply reinforce this reality. Twenty-three candidates is an unfeasible number of aspirants. For some candidates it is about principle and symbolism; for others it may well be little more than egotistical vanity project or something bordering in self-delusion. Bulawayo24 News

Piers Pigou

Senior Consultant, Southern Africa
21 Feb 2018
[Zimbabwe's] MDC [opposition party] needs enigmatic leadership that can inspire, lead and build a party that faces huge organisational and leadership challenges. No single leader can achieve this alone. Daily News

Piers Pigou

Senior Consultant, Southern Africa
15 Feb 2018
[Zimbabwe's veteran opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai's] passing is of terrible sadness but represents enormous challenge to the new cadre of leadership in the opposition. VOA

Piers Pigou

Senior Consultant, Southern Africa
5 Feb 2018
It seems highly unlikely that [former President] Mugabe would risk jeopardizing the handsome golden parachute he has been given by teaming up with Joice Mujuru. Daily News

Piers Pigou

Senior Consultant, Southern Africa

Latest Updates

Commentary / Africa

Zimbabwe: An Opportunity for Reform?

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.

Commentary / Africa

Three Critical African Elections

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.

Commentary / Africa

Standoff in Zimbabwe as Struggle to Succeed Mugabe Deepens

President Robert Mugabe plunged Zimbabwe into political crisis by firing his long-time ally and enforcer Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa on 6 November 2017. In this Q&A prior to an apparent army coup in Mnangagwa's favour on 14-15 November, Crisis Group’s Senior Southern Africa Consultant Piers Pigou gives the background to the struggle to succeed the 93-year-old president.

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.